Recession: Everyone is thinking it, no one is saying it

The numbers are staggering. Oil companies with Wyoming operations posted losses in the billions in 2015. Coal producers are filing for bankruptcy. The state is scrambling to balance the budget as it faces severe royalty and tax deficits. Wyoming lost 6,400 jobs in 2015, according to the U.S. Labor Department. Earlier this week, Bloomberg said what everyone here has been thinking: Wyoming is in a recession. And Bloomberg wasn't wrong. "Most of my economist colleagues and I have been saying for going on a year that the boom is over – and in Wyoming, that means a bust," Economist and UW Associate Vice President for Undergraduate Education Dr. Anne Alexander tells Pitchengine. "We’re there. The numbers lagged it, but the reality is there." So, what exactly is a recession? Alexander defines it as a slowdown or negative growth in employment or income for more than one quarter. And, as she noted, Wyoming's downturn has been for more than three months. "There’s an old saw that a 'downturn' is when your neighbor loses their job, and a 'recession' is when you lose your job," she said. Alexander says Wyoming can expect to see one of the more obvious effects of the recession in the form of a reduction in population and workforce, as people move away to find work. "In most downturns in Wyoming’s history, you brace yourself if you plan to stay here," she added. While many of the issues regarding the energy industry are dependent on national politics and international interests, the "constant mantra during busts" for Wyoming, once again, will be "diversification." "I think the good news is that we are slightly more diversified in our economy this time than in times past, and that means the impacts will not be as widespread," she said, later adding, "We need to keep focused on investing in efforts that broaden the shoulders upon which our economy sits." And in fact Wyoming's economy is more diverse than it was the last time there was a bust. "Folks often forget that our counties have an immense amount of diversity among them," Alexander said. "The Big Horn Basin and north Lincoln County, Torrington and Wheatland, Laramie and Cheyenne – they’re all different. And, not only are they different from each other, they’re different from Sublette, Campbell, Natrona. We often think we’ve got a monolithic economy. But Green River’s trona mines won’t be effected by oil and gas being low; the sugar beets and winter wheat farms and processors won’t either; neither will the bentonite manufacturers, or the tech sector upstarts in Laramie." On the street level, Alexander encourages everyone to support existing small businesses to discourage further population flight. *illustration h/t Pitchengine Communities* #bootstrapped #news