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Wyoming incomes ninth highest in nation

CASPER — Wyoming ended 2018 with the ninth-highest per capita income in the nation.

However, while incomes in Wyoming grew 4.5 percent over the previous year thanks to a resurgence in several of its extractive industries, overall income growth in Wyoming came at rates slower than a number of its neighbors in the region, several of whom are in the midst of significant periods of economic growth.

According to 2018 estimates released Tuesday by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, at $60,095 Wyoming’s per capita income last year was nearly $10,000 higher than the entire Rocky Mountain region and roughly 13 percent higher than the national average of $53,172.

However, as with most stories told in averages, this number comes with an asterisk, bolstered by the mining industry’s still significant presence in the state, and a relatively low population, which skews the average.

According to Jim Robinson, principal economist for the state’s Economic Analysis Division, earnings growth was seen in 18 out of 24 industries defined by the BEA in the fourth quarter of 2018, with the most significant gains experienced in the construction, transportation and warehousing sectors. Meanwhile, decreases were seen in sectors like real estate and the mining industries.

Though the mining sector experienced decreased wages in the fourth quarter of 2018, overall wages were still significantly higher than they were in the first half of the year.

While wages in Wyoming were among the nation’s highest, 2018’s overall wage growth in Wyoming – while in line with that of the rest of the nation — lagged behind several of its neighbors, growing 1.2 percent slower than the average 5.7 percent rate of growth seen across all the Rocky Mountain region, according to BEA estimates.

Though Wyoming’s overall 4.5 percent growth rate exceeded that of states like North Dakota (4.5 percent), South Dakota (4.1 percent) and Nebraska (3.9 percent), each of those states saw rates of growth between 8 percent and 12.9 percent in the fourth quarter of the year – in line with agricultural states like Iowa and Arkansas.

Wyoming’s fourth quarter growth, meanwhile, was 4.1 percent – ranked 27th in the nation.

Part of this may have to do with the quarterly volatility of each state’s economy. In a blog post, Michael Pakko, an economist with the Arkansas Economic Development Institute at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, noted Arkansas’ fourth quarter growth rate of 7.5 percent – good for the nation’s fifth-fastest – was largely attributable to a spike in farm income, similar to increases in other Midwestern, agriculture-centric states.

However, Arkansas’ incomes for the entire year increased at a rate of 4.7 percent – essentially the same rate as the national average.