CASPER — Wyoming’s energy industry limped along in September with price, production and employment indexes trailing far behind last year, a new report published by Wyoming’s Economic Analysis Division shows.
Pressure from a global oil price war, combined with the rising severity of the COVID-19 pandemic this past spring, walloped Wyoming’s fossil fuel sectors. Operators halted plans for new drilling, shut in wells and laid off workers in droves to respond to the drop in demand for fuel.
In September, oil prices averaged $39.63 a barrel, 6% lower than in August, and a difficult price for Wyoming producers to churn any profit on.
One sole oil rig was operating in Wyoming last month. In September 2019, the state had 36 oil and gas rigs. There were no gas rigs reported last month, marking the sixth straight month with zero conventional gas rigs in Wyoming.
Natural gas prices have held somewhat steady, with Opal Hub averaging $2.25 per million British thermal units, and coming in just one cent below the average price reported in September of last year.
Though sales and use tax collection grew almost 146% in Carbon County in September, thanks to hearty wind energy development, other counties recorded heavy losses. Sales and use taxes from Wyoming’s mining sector dropped nearly $9.4 million from September 2019, a 72% drop in revenue coming into state and local governments.
Despite the economic setbacks recorded last month, small gains were made in Wyoming’s workforce. Employment outside of farming climbed by 500 jobs, and the unemployment rate dropped to 6.6% in the state, the report stated.
According to Dylan Bainer, senior economist at the Economic Analysis Division, the uptick in jobs is “a good sign that the recovery from the COVID-19 recession is continuing on.”
Still, the mining and hospitality sectors sustained substantial job losses this past summer, with the hospitality sector reporting 7,200 fewer jobs in August year over year. The mining industry recorded 6,000 fewer jobs, down one-third from last year.