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An oil field worker preps a winch truck earlier this year in Douglas. 

Unemployment is down in Wyoming compared to this time last year. And among people working, wages are up.

A report released Thursday by the state’s Economic Analysis Division states that government employment — which accounts for about a quarter of all non-farm jobs in the state — dropped by just over 2 percent between June 2017 and June 2018. The government sector shrunk by 1,500 jobs over the course of the year.

Most of those government jobs were lost as part of a statewide budget crunch, Jim Robinson, the agency’s principal economist, said.

The difference in government employment, however, was more than recouped by a 3 percent increase in private sector employment. Most of the growth took place in mining, which added 1,300 jobs over the course of the year. Another 1,000 jobs were born in professional and business services, per the report.

Robinson said the increase in mining jobs is mostly the result of more hiring in the oil and gas industry. By the end of June, the state employed 12,300 people in that industry. Despite the continued growth, that is down about a third from the industry’s peak employment of 18,400 in late 2014.

“It’s unlikely we’ll get back to those levels,” Robinson said, citing structural changes to the industry since the bust.

Across industries, the state’s labor force is still smaller than it was pre-bust, Robinson said, which has paralleled a decrease in the state’s population. Average weekly earning, however, has trended upward since 2016. By the end of June, workers averaged $868.35 in pay per week, well above 2015’s number and up more than $50 over the past year.

“We were in a pretty big hole, 2, 3 years ago,” Robinson said. “We’re climbing out of that hole now.”

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Crime and Courts Reporter

Shane Sanderson is a Star-Tribune reporter who primarily covers criminal justice. Sanderson is a proud University of Missouri graduate. Lately, he’s been reading Cormac McCarthy and cooking Italian food. He writes about his own life in his free time.

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