Natrona County Continues to Top Unemployment Charts
In the April unemployment figures for Wyoming put out by the Department of Workforce Services Research & Planning, Natrona county continues its streak of leading the pack with 7.4% unemployment, with Sublette county coming in second at 7.1% unemployment.
Over the course of the pandemic, Natrona county has been pretty consistent at being the top county when it comes to unemployment, reaching a peak of 12.7% in April of last year, with Crook county often having the lowest unemployment.
David Bullard, senior economist for the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, Research & Planning, said the reason for the high unemployment numbers in Natrona county is due in large part to the energy sector.
Natrona county gets a lot of its jobs due to the energy sector, and Bullard said the impact the pandemic has had on that industry shows in the unemployment numbers.
Bullard said looking at the number of rigs operating in the state paints a clear picture of where the energy sector is currently, with 30 operating at the end of 2019, compared to four operating now.
With summer coming up, Bullard said he hopes the increase in tourism will help to revive energy production in Wyoming.
Across Natrona county, some oil and gas wells have continued production, according to data from ShaleXP, such as True Oil LLC, Southwestern Production Company, and Ovintiv USA Inc.
According to supervisor reports from the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the rig count for the week of May 10 was nine, a small sign that the energy industry may be returning to pre-pandemic levels.
That is an increase from seven in April, six in January, five in November, and four in May of 2020.
Steve Degenfelder, land manager for Kirkwood Oil and Gas LLC, said companies have been bringing more wells online as oil prices improve globally, however it may take a while for companies to get back to pre-COVID levels.
"Oil prices are still at a point that while wells have been brought back on, the budget deficits that the state and local communities still are experiencing are more than likely going to be a long term situation," Degenfelder said. "Especially with the new Biden admin coming in, will certainly put downward pressure on oil and gas activity."
Degenfelder said Kirkwood had around 60 people working for the company before COVID started, which was scaled back to 50 people, and has since not increased due to oil prices not getting up to high enough levels.