Wyoming had about 400 more oil and gas jobs in each of the first three months of the year than previously accounted for, according to revised federal reports released Wednesday.
Employment in the industry was raised to 12,400 for both January and February and 12,500 for March, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which tweaks quarterly job numbers after additional data is received.
The new numbers are in line with drilling activity in Wyoming that’s been improving over the last year, said Jim Robinson, principal economist at the state’s Economic Analysis Division. According to Robinson’s estimates, each oil and gas job in Wyoming represents about $6,500 in sales and use tax dollars.
For July, sales and use tax growth was strongest in Converse and Laramie counties, largely due to the mining industry, which includes oil and gas.
Improved crude prices are driving the job growth. The U.S. benchmark, West Texas Intermediate, has stabilized in a $65 to $70 per barrel range.
Failing oil prices in 2015 scarred Wyoming’s mineral-dependent economy, and though the increase in jobs is evidence of improvement since the downturn, the state’s fossil fuel industries remains well below boom times.
Average oil and gas employment in 2017 sat at 11,500 jobs compared to a 17,900 job average in 2014.
The muted growth in Wyoming jobs despite stable oil prices is a combination of a couple factors, Robinson noted.
Efficiencies in drilling may have reduced the number of jobs required to do the same amount of work. Also, large firms that operate in Wyoming are targeting higher return plays in other parts of the country and focusing only on the most profitable parts of Wyoming, he said.
“These companies are already busy in other states and other basins doing their drilling,” he said. “They can pick and choose.”