Wyoming population drops, economy flat after downturn

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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The downturn in Wyoming's mining and oil and gas industries have caused the state to experience its first population decline since 1990, but there are signs the state's economy has bottomed out and stabilized, economists said following the release of a national population report released this week.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimated that Wyoming's population declined by 1,054 people, or 0.2 percent, to 585,501 from July 2015 to July 2016. Wyoming is one of seven U.S. states that had population declines during the period.

In contrast, the state's population grew by 2,913 between July 2014 and July 2015 and had been growing since 1990.

State economist Wenlin Liu said the population decline reflects the downturn in key Wyoming economic sectors that cost thousands of mining and related jobs over about the last year. Many people who lost their jobs in Wyoming sought employment in other states that are not so dependent on the mining industry.

"People tend to move to areas where economies are vibrant, which is particularly true for Wyoming," Liu said.

State economist Jim Robinson said job losses in Wyoming's oil and gas industry appear to have flattened out and there has been a slight increase in drilling activity in recent months.

Business is up for 17 or 24 sectors monitored by the state and personal income in Wyoming grew by $157 million during the July-September quarter compared to the previous quarter, Robinson said.

"I guess you'd say it's good news because things aren't getting any worse," he said. "The economy looks fairly stable right now. We're just not seeing any growth really any place."

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