Wyo’s population is growing three times the national rate; Economist attributes it to Covid Escape

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Although Wyoming’s population grew at three times the national rate between 2020 and 2021, the overall increase in numbers will have minimal effect on the state, an economist says.

Wyoming’s total resident population increased by 1,536 people, or 0.3%, between July 2020 and July 2021, according to the US Census Bureau, compared to the national growth rate of 0.1%.

Wyoming’s population in July 2021 was 578,803, according to the Census Bureau.

Wyoming economist and state Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, told the Cowboy State Daily on Thursday while he’s happy to see an increase in residents, he doesn’t think it will make much of a difference to state and local economies.

“I think it was a COVID-driven thing and people ran away from crowded areas,” Case said. “Will this trend continue? COVID doesn’t really exist anymore, but the remote work trend might help a bit. »

Case said it wasn’t really fair to call the increase a “trend” because it only happened over a one-year period.

Case pointed out that while many people moving to Wyoming can work remotely, the state hasn’t seen any major companies moving in that could provide new jobs.

“It’s not like you rip out a factory in Los Angeles and put it here,” he said. “It’s individuals from this company who come here.”

While Case said he doesn’t want to see the state’s population shrink, the state’s current tax structure prevents Wyoming from taking full advantage of its new residents.

Fifteen counties in Wyoming saw their population increase during the one-year period. Lincoln County saw the largest increase at 2.4%, followed by Sheridan at 2.1% and Crook and Johnson counties, both at 1.9%.

Laramie County, the state’s largest, rose 0.2%, while Natrona County, the second-largest, saw a decline of 0.8%, or 674 residents.

However, Campbell and Sweetwater counties saw the largest declines, with population declines of 1.5% and 1.3%, respectively.

Wenlin Liu, the state’s chief economist, said in his analysis of census figures that two factors contributed to the state’s demographic change: births and deaths and net migration, the difference between people entering and leaving an area.

During the year, 1,368 more people moved to Wyoming than left the state, the report said, while the difference between births and deaths was 171 more residents. During the year, 6,213 people were born in Wyoming and 6,042 people died.

Liu said the migration of people to the state was partly caused by the economy.

“Job opportunities have always driven Wyoming’s migration trend, but the pandemic has also played a significant role over the past two years,” Liu said. “Many people have chosen to move to less populated and lower cost areas during the pandemic, and the increased availability of remote working has made this possible.”

Liu also said the dramatic drop in energy prices and subsequent economic downturn in the mid-2010s forced many residents out of the state. Consequently, the state has experienced consecutive years of negative net migration with more people leaving the state than moving in between 2014 and 2019.

However, the direction of net migration reversed in 2020 and 2021.

More than two-thirds of Wyoming counties showed positive net migration, led by Sheridan with 729 people, followed by Park with 530 people and Lincoln with 447.

On the other hand, a large negative net migration occurred in Campbell, with a loss of 907 people, Natrona and Sweetwater, with a loss of 621, in the counties.

“The COVID-19 virus has hit energy production and utility areas particularly hard as demand has plummeted, and the industry’s rebound has been painfully slow, particularly in Wyoming,” Liu said.

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