Wyoming’s Population Grew as Energy Industry Rebounded, Report Found

Growth largely attributed to more people moving to the state

Wyoming’s population grew by 1,898 residents or 0.3% for a total population of 581,381 as of July 2022 compared to July 2021. Most counties in the state saw an increase in their population. (Courtesy graphic from the Wyoming Economic Analysis Division based on figures from the U.S. Census Bureau)

By Shen Wu Tan

Special to the Wyoming Truth

Wyoming’s population grew slightly last year as most counties experienced an uptick in residents, a new study reveals. 

Citing statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Wyoming Economic Analysis Division reported last week that the state’s total population rose to 581,381 as of July 2022, an increase of 1,898 or 0.3% from July 2021. The rate of growth was a little under the 0.4% increase in population nationwide.  

Sixteen of the 23 counties in Wyoming saw population increases with Lincoln County taking the lead at 2.4%. Both Big Horn and Crook counties experienced a 1.8% growth rate. Teton and Niobrara counties had the largest population declines at 1.4%. Meanwhile, the population in Laramie and Natrona counties decreased by 0.1%.

“Generally speaking, economic activities increase as the population grows,” said Wenlin Liu, chief economist of the Wyoming Economic Analysis Division. “Newly added residents provide a labor force to the local businesses and job market and also purchase goods and services and may even buy a house. All these actions would grow the economy through expansion in GDP, personal income and employment, and also contribute to revenue such as sales taxes, fuel taxes and property taxes.”

Conversely, if new residents are elderly people with low incomes or school-aged children, then the government might have to up expenditures for services such as Medicaid and education, Liu added.

Net migration and natural change are two factors that influence changes in the population. Net migration is the difference between people coming into and leaving an area, while natural change is the difference between births and deaths. Between July 2021 and July 2022, 2,494 more people moved into Wyoming—a positive net migration.

“Domestic migration has been the largest component contributing to the state’s growth, over the last two years,” a spokesperson for the U.S. Census Bureau told the Wyoming Truth. “The last time the state posted an annual decline in population was 2018.”

From 2014 to 2019, more people left Wyoming than moved into the state due to a downturn in the energy industry. But an industry rebound and the COVID-19 pandemic helped reverse that trend, the Wyoming Economic Analysis Division noted in its report.  

“A number of professionals with higher income[s] and telework capabilities chose to relocate to less populated and lower cost areas during the pandemic,” Liu said.  

From 2021 to 2022, over 75% of Wyoming’s counties saw positive net migration with Park, Sheridan and Lincoln counties experiencing the greatest population gains. Only Niobrara, Carbon, Sweetwater and Teton counties saw a net population loss.

Between July 2021 and July 2022, the state saw a decline in natural change with deaths exceeding births by 490 over a year. During that time frame, 6,679 residents died, and 6,189 residents were born, according to the economic analysis division study.  

“As it pertains to births, the state has seen a year-over-year decrease in births between 2015 and 2021,” a spokesperson for  the U.S. Census Bureau said. “There was a small uptick in births in 2022, which is comparable to what is seen at the national level.”

From 2008 to 2019, Wyoming’s natural change had been steadily dropping as residents aged and birth rates dipped. For instance, the natural change was nearly 4,000 in 2008 but then dropped to below 1,500 in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Exacerbated by the pandemic, the fertility rate dropped to [a] record low in 2020,” Liu said. “The slight rebound in 2021 was partially attributed to the fact that many would-be mothers delayed their pregnancies during the first year of COVID-19. I do not think the number of births will grow much at all in the future for both the U.S. and Wyoming. The fertility decrease has been a global phenomenon and trend, from Europe to North America, then to Asia in recent years, and I don’t think it can be reversed.”             

The pandemic also drove up mortality rates to around 6,000 annually for the last three years, reaching a historic level of 6,679 between July 2021 and July 2022, the study states.  

Wyoming’s population has grown by 4,544 or 0.8% since April 1, 2020— higher than the U.S. rate of 0.6%. Lincoln County had the highest growth rate at 5.5%, followed by Sheridan County at 3.8%. Sweetwater experienced the steepest dip in population, dropping by 2.2%.

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