- Associated Press - Thursday, September 18, 2014

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Wyoming is among the states seeing a decrease in the poverty rate.

New figures from the U.S. Census Bureau state that the nationwide poverty rate remained essentially unchanged in 2013 compared to the year, remaining fixed at just under 16 percent.

Meanwhile, the figures show just under 11 percent of Wyoming residents were living in poverty in 2013, down from 12.6 percent the year before.

Wyoming also is ahead of the nation in growth of household income.

Federal figures show household income climbed by 5.7 percent from 2012 to 2013 in Wyoming, compared to a less than 1 percent rise nationwide. Median income for Wyoming families was $58,750 in 2013, compared to the national median of household income of $52,250.

Wenlin Liu is principal economist with Wyoming Economic Analysis Division. He says Wyoming’s 2013 figures show dramatic improvement because of increased energy production and prices. Energy is the economic engine of the state, which has no corporate or personal income tax.

Liu cautioned that the recent 5.7 percent increase in household income has to be considered against a 4.2 percent decline from 2011 to 2012. He also cautioned that Wyoming, with its small population, may be more prone to sampling errors than other states.

Yet Liu said there’s no doubt Wyoming’s economy continues to improve.

“Wyoming’s economy was improving in 2013. It’s was better then, than in 2012,” Liu said. “One of the reasons was that in 2012, we had a dramatic natural gas declined, as low as below $2 in April. That really caused a lot of drilling activity to decline.”

Natural gas is currently trading in the range of $4 per thousand cubic feet.

Although not mentioned in the latest federal figures, Liu said Wyoming’s unemployment rate has dropped from 5.6 percent in 2012 to 4.6 percent last year and now stands at about 4 percent.

And Liu said the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis’s estimates Wyoming’s gross domestic product grew 7.6 percent in 2013, the second-highest growth rate in the nation. “That was again driven by the recovery of the mineral extraction industry,” he said.

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