FILE - Downtown Jackson, Wyoming

Historic downtown in Jackson, Wyo. in summer 2020.

(The Center Square) — Wyoming's job losses between the third quarters of 2019 and 2020 were over 20,000, according to a state jobs report, but business leaders say they expect the economy will recover.

Wyoming lost a total of 21,656 jobs, an employment decline of 7.6%, according to a report from the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services. Payroll fell by $281.3 million, or 8.1%.

As was the case in most parts of the country, hospitality and leisure were hit hardest, losing a total of 6,107 jobs. The extraction industry, including both mining and oil and gas, wasn’t far behind with 5,991 jobs lost. In construction, jobs declined by 2,637. Other industries affected were local government including schools and universities and professional/business services. 

Cindy Delancey, president of the Wyoming Business Alliance, said Wyoming businesses are strong and resilient.

“We are the ultimate innovators in Wyoming — we know how to solve problems and we solve them quickly and efficiently, so I have full confidence in our business community to continue to be able to look towards the future, create additional opportunity for our workforce and our future generation of workers,” she told The Center Square.

Delancey pointed to the restaurant industry as a good example of this. One of the key things they did was working with the state to make sure they found safe solutions that would allow them to remain open for business, she said.

Wyoming’s extraction industry is still reeling from losses, but there is good news to be seen there as well, according to industry representatives.

Travis Deti, executive director for the Wyoming Mining Association, said the much of the state’s mining industry should recover as the economy opens back up. 

“Our trona operatives are looking at expanding right now so we fully expect to see jobs added in the future in that industry,” he told the Center Square recently.

Wyoming’s economy has been held back from rebounding as quickly as it might from lack of a willing workforce, some have argued.

“The U.S. Chamber released a report last week indicating that one out of every four people on unemployment right now is making more on unemployment than they were on their job,” Delancey said. 

She pointed out finding the balance between helping people through a hard time and keeping workers incentivized is a hard job. She added they appreciate the governor’s policy decision to support businesses and Wyoming’s economy by removing federal unemployment benefits from the table.

Delancey said businesses continue to search for ways to create additional opportunities for themselves as part of those sectors’ rebound strategy.

“We’re going to keep going forward in Wyoming — that’s what we do,” she said. “We live by the code of the West, and we’re cowboys.”