A strong first quarter for Wyoming’s mining industry helped drive a rate of personal income growth of just over 2 percent over the last quarter of 2018.
However, personal income growth across the state lags well behind rates seen in other Rocky Mountain states, whose hot economies continued booming in the early months of 2019.
According to new data released by the state’s Economic Analysis Division earlier this week, wage growth in Wyoming lagged well behind the region’s average growth of 3.8 percent in the first three months of this year, trailing states like Idaho (4.9 percent growth), Utah (4.4 percent), Montana (3.6 percent) and Colorado, which matched the national growth rate of 3.4 percent.
Growth across Wyoming was fairly even, with 21 of the state’s 24 industries experiencing growth in quarter one. Much of the growth was thanks to a strong performance for the state’s mining sector, which saw earnings increase by $33 million over the winter. The retail trade had a strong quarter as well, with total earnings increasing $30 million in quarter one.
Much of the growth in the retail sector was driven by the gains seen by retailers like warehouse clubs and supercenters. Additional improvements were seen by “electronic shopping and mailorder houses,” reflecting online sales from vendors such as Amazon, Wayfair and others.
Improvement was not seen everywhere, however. The transportation and warehousing sector – whose health is often determined by that of the state’s extractive industries – saw earnings fall by $25 million compared to the fourth quarter of 2018, said principal economist Jim Robinson.
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The reasons, however, are unrelated to the health of the state’s mineral industry, reflecting this spring’s diminished railroad activity due to a number of areas in the Midwest impacted by intense flooding.
“Train deliveries in Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska were especially hard hit by heavy rains and are only recently starting to recover,” Robinson said.
Will the good times continue?
Increases in wages were driven largely by an oncoming boom for oil, particularly from activity in the eastern part of the state. According to Robinson, oil production increased by 16.4 percent in the first quarter of 2019 compared to a year ago. Meanwhile, natural gas and coal production have declined over the past year.
The good wages seen from oil – as is well-established in Wyoming – won’t last forever, however.
“The gains seen in mining are not necessarily sustainable because as history has shown, oil and natural gas prices in particular, are prone to volatility,” Robinson said. “Oil and natural gas producers in the state are price takers with politics, weather, technology and consumer behavior impacting supply and demand conditions for these products.”