With astronomical park visitation in the fourth quarter of 2020, Teton County has bucked bleaker economic trends elsewhere in Wyoming and compared to the state as a whole.
That’s according to the state of Wyoming’s Economic Analysis Division, which reported a 9.3% year-over-year drop in statewide sales and use tax collections — a metric largely viewed as an indicator of economic activity in the Equality State and its 23 counties. The primary driver of that drop was contraction in the mining industry, which fell 63.1%.
“This was one of the largest year-over-year drops in Wyoming’s history,” Chief Economist Wenlin Liu wrote in his department’s fourth quarter report.
Sales and use tax collections in Teton County did the opposite. They increased 20.8% compared to the year before. That reality represents a dramatic departure from what local officials predicted around this time last year, when the Jackson Town Council and Teton County Board of County Commissioners began preparing budgets anticipating a COVID-19 pandemic-driven decline in sales tax collections of 50%.
The increase in Teton County was not the largest in the state, however.
It was second to that seen in Lincoln County, which saw its collections spike 56%.
Liu argued the increases in both areas were due to “boosts in outdoor activities” — a trend that he also said led to record-setting visitation at Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks. Grand Teton is entirely within Teton County, while Yellowstone is partly in Teton County, partly in Park County, and partly in Montana and Idaho.
Recreational visitations to Yellowstone hit 412,664 between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, 2020, up 94.2% from the same period the year prior. Visitations in Grand Teton hit 469,628 in the same period, charting a 67.1% increase.
Both jumps were the largest in history, and Liu partially attributed those skyrocketing figures to “visitors’ preference of outdoor sightseeing during the COVID-19 outbreak.”
Teton County accordingly reversed the statewide trend in lodging sales, charting a 35.4% increase for the fourth quarter as compared to the year prior. The state as a whole saw a 3.2% decline, again driven by declining mineral extraction in Wyoming.
“The lodging sales change in Teton County’s winter season is mostly driven by ski activities,” Liu reported, though the ski season at Jackson Hole’s three ski resorts accounted for only one month of the three-month period in question.
You can read the full report attached to the online version of this article at JHNewsAndGuide.com.