CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Wyoming’s total resident population grew moderately to 581,381 as of July 2022, according to a U.S. Census Bureau estimate.
The annual increase from July 2021 totaled 1,898 persons or 0.3%, slightly less than the U.S. growth rate of 0.4%.
Sixteen counties experienced population increases from July 2021 to July 2022. Lincoln County led the state with the fastest growth rate, 2.4%, followed by Big Horn, 1.8%, and Crook, 1.8%. Teton and Niobrara counties suffered the steepest decreases, both declining by 1.4%. Laramie and Natrona counties, the only two Metropolitan Statistical Areas in the state, decreased 0.1%.
Two factors contribute to changes in population: natural change, which is the difference between births and deaths, and net migration, the difference between people moving into and out of an area.
At the state level, the net migration was 2,494, meaning that 2,494 more people moved into Wyoming than moved out between July 2021 and July 2022. The natural change, however, was -490, or 6,189 births compared to 6,679 deaths.
“Perhaps it’s the first time in Wyoming’s history that the number of deaths outnumbered the births, according to Wyoming Department of Health records,” commented Wenlin Liu, chief economist with the State of Wyoming Economic Analysis Division.
Wyoming’s population growth from natural change already declined steadily between 2008 and 2019 as birth rates dropped and Baby Boomers aged with increased mortality. The natural change was near 4,000, or 8,134 births and 4,183 deaths, in 2008, but it dropped below 1,500, or 6,568 births and 5,122 deaths, in 2019 prior to COVID-19. Since then, the pandemic has further pulled down the number of births while driving up the number of deaths to around 6,000 annually for the past three years.
In particular, the number of deaths reached the historic level of 6,679 between July 2021 and July 2022, resulting in an unprecedented negative natural change. Across the state, roughly two-thirds of the counties showed negative natural change, or more deaths than births; in contrast, less than one-third of the counties experienced a natural decrease in 2019.
The state experienced nearly six consecutive years of negative net migration, meaning more people left than moved into the state, between 2014 and 2019 due to the energy downturn. However, the direction of net migration has since reversed.
“Energy-driven employment opportunity is always a leading factor for Wyoming’s migration trend, but the pandemic specifically played a large role in recent years,” Liu said. “A number of professionals with higher income and telework capabilities chose to relocate to less populated and lower-cost areas during the pandemic.”
Over three-fourths of Wyoming’s counties showed positive net migration from 2021 to 2022, led by Park County, 504; Sheridan County, 498; and Lincoln County, 435, similar to the trends between 2020 and 2021. Only four counties experienced negative net migration: Teton, -451; Sweetwater, -249; Carbon, -103; and Niobrara, -19.
“The rebound of the energy industry in mineral producing and serving areas also demonstrated improvement in migration,” Liu continued.
Campbell, Converse, Natrona and Sublette counties reversed the direction of net migration from negative to positive, and Sweetwater County cut its net out migration by more than half compared to the previous year.
Since the 2020 Census, Wyoming’s population has increased by 4,544, or 0.8%, which is faster than the U.S. rate of 0.6%. Lincoln and Sheridan counties demonstrated the largest growth, adding 1,078 or 5.5% and 1,171 or 3.8% residents, respectively.
Sweetwater County had the steepest decline, -922 or -2.2%. Laramie County, the most populous county in the state, grew 0.2%, while Natrona, the second most populous county, decreased by 354 residents, or -0.4%. In contrast, these two MSAs had added the most residents between 2010 and 2020: 8,774 and 4,505, respectively.
The full report with charts and detailed data can be found here: http://eadiv.state.wy.us/pop/CO-22est.pdf.