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Wyoming keeps getting older: Shortage of workers as young people leave, Baby Boomers age

GILLETTE, Wyo. — Wyoming’s population continues to get older with young people leaving the state and fertility rates declining as Baby Boomers age, the Wyoming Economic Analysis Division said in a press release Friday.

U.S. Census Bureau estimates suggest Wyoming’s population of people 65 years of age or older grew by 3.6% between July 2020 and July 2021, according to the press release. The state’s population overall grew by 0.3% during the same time frame. Wyoming’s median age rose 0.3 years to 38.9 years.

“Though the impact from Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) aging was the main reason, outmigration of young people and decline in fertility rate also played roles,” said Dr. Wenlin Liu, chief economist with the Economic Analysis Division. “Ever since the first Baby Boomers turned 65 years old in 2011, there has been a rapid increase in the size of the older population.”

The number of people 65 and older was at around 70,090 in 2010 but grew to around 103,877 by 2021, the Economic Analysis Division said, an increase of 48.2%. The growth of the elderly population from 2010-2021 was nearly 10% higher in Wyoming than the U.S. rate of 38.7%.

People 65 and over make up 17.9% of Wyoming’s overall population and the state has one of the highest proportions of Baby Boomers in the country, the Economic Analysis Division said. Wyoming’s elderly population is expected to reach 135,000 by 2030 when all Baby Boomers will be 65 or older. The elderly population is expected to be above 20% of Wyoming’s overall population by 2030, the release said.

While Wyoming’s Baby Boomer population is proportionally one of the highest in the U.S., the state has one of the lowest Generation X population’s relative to the state’s overall population in the country.

“Wyoming does not have sufficient resident workers to replace retiring Boomers in normal economic conditions,” Liu said. “Wyoming’s demographic transition and labor market environment provides excellent opportunity and encouragement for unemployed residents who are looking for jobs within the state as many Baby Boomers are exiting the labor force.

Wyoming’s 18 and under population declined about 1% between July 2020 and July 2021 and the population of children under 5 years old declined 3.3%, according to the Economic Analysis Division. The 18-64 age group population declined 0.2%.

While Wyoming is getting older, it is also getting more diverse. The state’s total minority population reached 96,843 in July 2021, an increase of 1.2% compared with overall population growth of 0.3% since July 2020, according to the release.

“In fact, it’s the addition of the minority population that contributes to all the state’s population growth since 2010,” the Economic Analysis Division said. “Hispanic was the largest minority group with 61,087 in July 2021, an annual increase of 1.5 percent. The Black or African-American population remained the same as in July 2020, at 6,016.”

“Other minority races, such as American Indian and Asian declined slightly, while Two-or-More Races recorded 3.1 percent growth. The majority, Non-Hispanic White, grew only 0.1 percent.”

While the minority population grew relative to the overall population, Wyoming still has the 8th lowest proportion of minorities in the U.S. at 16.7% of the total population compared with 40.7% nationally, according to the release.

Further information about county and statewide population trends is available from the Economic Analysis Division at http://eadiv.state.wy.us/pop/or the U.S. Census Bureau’s website at http://www.census.gov/.