Casper took a major hit after energy prices sank a few years ago, but a recent state report shows that the city’s economy is slowly mending.
“We may never get to where we used to be, just because of the trends and the pressures on the energy sector, but we are certainly making progress,” said Tom Pitlick, the city’s Chief Financial Officer.
The Casper Business-Cycle Index, an economic indicator that is designed to provide a current assessment of the city’s economy, was registered at a value of 96.36 in September, up from 94.93 in September 2016. There are four main components that determine the Business-Cycle Index: Unemployment rates, private sector weekly wages, sales and use tax collections and median home prices.
In terms of number of jobs, Casper is improving. The total number of nonfarm payroll jobs in Casper increased by 300 from September 2016 to September 2017, according to the state-issued Casper Economic Indicators report. The greatest gains occurred in mining and education and health services. Two hundred jobs were also added in the private sector during this time period.
The report also shows that Natrona County’s collection of the 4 percent sales and use tax rose to $7.3 million in September 2017, $800,000 higher than in September 2016.
The city considers the tax figures to be the “primary indicator” of the city’s overall economic state, said Pitlick.
Other areas didn’t fare as well. The number of homes sold decreased from 104 to 85 between September 2016 to 2017. The median home price during this same time period stayed about the same, going from $198,550 in 2016 to $199,000 in 2017.
In a stable economy, home prices would annually increase more, according to Randy Hall, the principal broker and commercial director at BrokerOne Real Estate.
However, Hall said he wasn’t surprised by the news.
The real estate market has been in a “malaise” for the past few years due to the state-wide economic downturn, said Hall.
As far as wages, an average private sector employee in Casper made $884.47 a week in September, slightly less than the $887.54 a week he or she would have earned in September 2016.
The report overall is encouraging, said Jim Robinson, a principal economist for the state’s Economic Analysis Division.
“I think the report indicates that the Casper economy is certainly improving since the beginning of 2017,” he said, primarily due to an improving, or stabilizing, energy sector.