CHEYENNE, Wyo.— Casper has exceeded 60,000 in population for the first time in its history thanks largely to active oil drilling in the area, and a state economist says he believes the recent downturn in oil prices won’t cause the large population losses that the city and state experienced in past boom-to-bust cycles.
New numbers released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau estimate that Casper gained nearly 400 residents during the year ending July 1, 2014, putting it just over the 60,000 mark by 86 people.
Cheyenne remains the most populous city in the state with an estimated 62,845 residents. Laramie is No. 3 at 32,081, followed by Gillette with 31,971, Rock Springs with 24,045 and Sheridan with 17,916.
Among the other larger cities in Wyoming, Riverton’s population is estimated at 10,953, Jackson at 10,449, Cody at 9,740, Rawlins at 9,227, Lander at 7,642, Powell at 6,407 and Worland at 5,366.
Casper gained more residents in a year’s time than any other city or town in the state, state economist Wenlin Liu said. Since 2010, Natrona County, which includes Casper, gained about 6,000 residents, Liu said.
Liu credited the booming oil industry around Casper and northeast Wyoming for the big increase. Casper is a hub for the oil-service industry in central and northeast Wyoming. “Wyoming’s oil production increased over 40 percent in the past three years from 2011 to 2014,” he said.
During the 1980s oil boom in Wyoming, Casper’s population hit no higher than about 55,500 residents, Liu said.
However, in recent months, many energy companies have been scaling back drilling operations in Wyoming because of the drop in oil prices, resulting in an estimated 1,000 workers losing their jobs around the state.
Still, Liu said he doesn’t think many of those workers will be leaving the state because the global price collapse has affected drilling in all the oil-producing states. During the Great Recession, many industry workers who lost jobs in Wyoming moved to North Dakota and other states where oil and gas drilling continued unabated, he said.
“For these laid-off mining workers, they might as well stay in Wyoming because they have nowhere to go,” Liu said.
Some former oil and gas workers are switching to Wyoming’s construction industry, which has been struggling to find workers in recent years, Liu said.
This article was written by BOB MOEN from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.