- Associated Press - Sunday, August 10, 2014

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Wyoming recorded the lowest growth in consumer spending in the nation between 2011 and 2012, but residents don’t appear to be cutting back on buying gasoline for their vehicles.

“Our population density is lower than any other state except Alaska - a lot of room and just a few people,” state economist David Bullard said. “So the gasoline would make sense to me.”

A report released last week by the U.S. Department of Commerce shows Wyoming’s per capita spending was $36,891 in 2012, the latest year for which figures are available.

Consumer spending in Wyoming in 2012 was just 1.4 percent higher than the previous year, the lowest percentage increase in the nation, the report said. The U.S. average was a 3.3 percent boost from 2011.

Bullard, a senior economist with the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, said the state struggled with job growth in 2012.

“The first quarter of 2012 we were adding jobs at a 2.5 percent annual rate. By the end of the year, it was 0.3 percent,” he said. “So the job growth really slowed during the course of 2012. And so fewer jobs would likely result in less spending.”

Job growth improved only slightly in 2013, to about 0.5 percent, but picked up to 1.1 percent in the first quarter of this year, Bullard said.

Despite the tepid consumer spending in Wyoming, per capita spending on gasoline and energy in the state was $3,475 in 2012, second only to North Dakota’s $3,916, according to the federal report.

Wyoming has among the cheapest electricity prices in the nation, so much of the spending likely is for gasoline, Bullard said.

“The population centers are pretty widely dispersed around the state,” Bullard said. “In some of our neighboring states, well over half the population is in one metro area. And we don’t have anything like that. Our population is really spread out.”

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