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Tourism, construction boost job growth

Local government grows while state stays steady, federal government constricts.
By Rebecca Walsh, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
February 13, 2013

The industries that built modern-day Teton County — tourism and home construction — are the same sectors of the economy that fueled job and payroll growth last year.

Numbers released by the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services for the second quarter of 2012 show 735 jobs added to the county economy between April and June. Those job gains fueled a 4.5 percent bump in county employment. At the same time, company payrolls increased by 4.8 percent to $7.4 million.

But while Teton County and 18 other counties had modest job growth last spring, five counties lost jobs, revealing the diversity between Wyoming’s counties.

Nearby Lincoln County lost 474 jobs, mostly in construction and mining. Sublette County lost 70 jobs in transportation, warehousing and mining.

Senior Economist David Bullard said the roller-coaster job market in some counties is tied to large, short-term projects — pipelines and power plants — that require a large number of temporary workers.

“When the project’s done, they’re gone,” Bullard said. “It may not say a whole lot about the health of that county’s economy.”

Likewise, the Wyoming counties that gained jobs last year “may not have a whole lot in common,” he said.

Converse County led the state with 8.4 percent job growth, mostly in mining. Natrona County gained 1,686 jobs, many in wholesale trade, construction and other services.

In Teton County, job growth followed a 30-year trend. More than half of the valley’s new hires work in real estate, hotels and restaurants, sectors that form the backbone of Jackson’s economy. Accommodation and food service companies hired 200 new workers. Construction companies hired another 200. And 50 more people were hired to work transportation jobs, including taxi and bus services, airport positions and trucking.

Meantime, state numbers show government jobs in Teton County have shifted. In the second quarter of 2010, 512 residents worked for the federal government. With Washington belt-tightening, that number fell by more than 15 percent in two years, dropping to 432 last spring. State government worker numbers stayed relatively steady, from 101 two years ago to 103 in 2012.

But county and town worker numbers have increased by 5 percent, growing from 1,702 in the second quarter of 2010 to 1,790 in the second quarter of last year.

The good news may be fleeting. Bullard says preliminary reports show job growth stagnating statewide in the third quarter of last year. Teton County reported just 200 new jobs in last summer’s high tourist season.

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