- Associated Press - Friday, May 26, 2017

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - Wyoming cities and towns in areas dependent on the coal, oil and natural gas sectors saw the greatest population declines in the state last year, with Casper losing nearly 1,000 residents, new census figures show.

Cheyenne, the state’s largest city with an economy based on government jobs, gained 615 residents. That pushed its population just above 64,000.

It’s likely that some people who lost mining related jobs in other areas of the state moved to Cheyenne in 2016, Wenlin Liu, chief economist for the state, told the Casper Star-Tribune (https://bit.ly/2rGW5ht ) in a story published Friday.

Statewide, Wyoming’s population fell by 1,054 residents to 585,501 in 2016, the first population decline for the state since 1990, according to estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau in December.

The three key industries that support the state’s labor force and economy have been in decline over the last several years.

Oil, natural gas and coal suffered from falling prices. Some economists believe that the declines have bottomed out and say the coal sector in particular is suffering because of low prices for natural gas.

Cheyenne was relatively immune to the downturn for petroleum and coal extraction, Liu said.

Casper is a hub for the oil and gas field and lost about 1.6 percent of its population, which dropped below 60,000 residents.

Gillette, located in the coal rich Powder River Basin in northeast Wyoming, lost 329 residents and now has a population of 32,398.

Officials have recently pointed to some positive signs for the state’s most important economic sectors. The number of oil and gas jobs is increasing and applications for state permits to drill for oil have increased.

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Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, https://www.trib.com


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