Mar 31, 2015

For first time in more than 10 years, county population sinks

Park County has shrunk a little.

New estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau say Park County’s population dipped by .2 percent, or 165 people, between July 2013 and July 2014.

The bureau figures the county’s population stood at 28,989 people last July, down from 29,154 the year before.

There were more births than deaths over the course of the year, but that was outpaced by the people who moved away, the bureau said in data released Thursday.

Though slight, it was the first decline in population in more than a decade for Park County.

Wyoming’s overall population increased by .2 percent (to 584,153) in that time frame, but 12 of the state’s 23 counties — including all four in the Big Horn Basin — lost residents.

Wenlin Liu, principal economist with the state’s Economic Analysis Division, said changes in the state’s population follow changes in the job market.

“Mainly due to the severe drop in natural gas price in early 2012, the mineral extraction industry lost jobs and there was minuscule total employment growth during the second half of 2012 and most of 2013,” Liu said in a news release.

Meanwhile, in that same timeframe, oil exploration shot up in states like North Dakota, Texas and Colorado. That drew away many Wyoming energy workers and residents, Liu said. (For example, the Census Bureau says Williams County, N.D., remained the country’s fastest-growing, its population shooting up by another 8.7 percent.)

However, Wyoming’s economy gradually regained strength in 2014, “thanks to the strong expansion of oil drilling, rebounding construction and the strength of the service-providing industries,” Liu said.

“There was minuscule total employment growth during the second half of 2012 and most of 2013,” Liu said.

He expects to see faster population growth when estimates for July 2015 are released next year.
Teton County grew the fastest between 2013 and 2014, according to the Census Bureau’s estimates. It grew at a 2.5 percent clip to reach 22,930 residents.

Niobrara County, already the state’s least populated, suffered th

e steepest, 3.4 percent loss to sink to 2,463 residents.
Laramie County remained the state’s most populous, with 96,389 inhabitants.

To put that in a national context, Los Angeles County, Calif., weighed in as the country’s most populated, with 10.1 million residents.

A total of 318.4 million people are believed to be living in the U.S.

Population estimates for cities and towns will be released at a later date.

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