Chart courtesy U.S. Census Bureau

BILLINGS- The state of Wyoming is losing population.

Over the last year the Cowboy State saw a net decline of over 5,500 people, the largest percentage decline in the nation.

Wyoming also lost population the previous year.

The U.S Census Bureau reports eight states lost population between July 1, 2016 and July 1, 2017.

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Wyoming was joined by North Dakota on that list.

Montana saw a net gain of almost 12,000 people.

Idaho was the fastest growing state by percentage with an increase of 2.2 percent.

“People tend to move to areas where the economy is vibrant, which is particularly true for Wyoming,” said Dr. Wenlin Liu, Chief Economist with the Economic Analysis Division.

Change in employment always tends to drive and lead the change in migration in the states. In other words, migration normally follows employment changes.

The contraction of Wyoming’s employment started in early 2015.

Though the mining industry (including oil & gas extraction) in the state gained some ground and added over 1,000 jobs between mid-2016 and mid-2017 due to price stabilization and increases of drilling, nearly all other sectors of the economy still experienced employment decreases, led by construction and government.

As a result, the overall payroll employment shrunk by 3,600 or -1.3 percent, the worst performance in the country during the period. Continued employment decline contributed to the increase in outmigration.

The labor market nationwide, particularly in neighboring states to Wyoming, such as Colorado (the lowest unemployment rate in June 2017 in the U.S.), Utah (the 2nd fastest job growth rate in June 2017), and Idaho (labor market ranked in the top 10), continued to show strong expansion, which attracted a number of Wyoming workers and residents during the period.

Montana’s gain in population of 1.1 percent puts it in the top 15 percent for growth. There are currently 1,050,493 people living in the state.

The biggest percentage growth in the country is out west.

Following Idaho (2.0 percent) is Utah (1.9 percent) and Washington (1.7 percent).

“Domestic migration drove change in the two fastest-growing states, Idaho and Nevada, while an excess of births over deaths played a major part in the growth of the third fastest-growing state, Utah,” said Luke Rogers, Chief of the Population Estimates Branch.

The U.S. population grew by 2.3 million between July 1, 2016, and July 1, 2017, representing a 0.72 percent increase to 325.7 million.

Furthermore, the population of voting-age residents (adults age 18 and over) grew to 252.1 million (77.4 percent of the 2017 total population), an increase of 0.93 percent from 2016 (249.5 million).

Net international migration decreased 1.8 percent between 2016 and 2017, making it the first drop since 2012-2013.

However, net international migration continues to be a significant factor in the population growth of the United States, adding just over 1.1 million people in the last year.

For complete details go to the U.S. Census Bureau’s website.

-Jon Stepanek reporting for MTN News