On the hunt for a job? Then Sweetwater County, Wyoming, should be your target.
“Right now, we have about 600 jobs in the community that we are trying to fill,” says Dave Hanks, president of the Rock Springs Chamber of Commerce.
Many are in energy-related fields that offer annual salaries of $100,000. Mining, oil and gas, and similar segments have been the traditional job creators in a region rich in mineral assets. While that’s still true, there are also job openings in health care, education, construction and retail.
“We’re seeing a wide spectrum of job openings,” Hanks says. “We take that as a sign that our economy is growing and diversifying.”
Influx of New Residents
The population is also growing. Rock Springs' population is up 23 percent over the past decade, and the newcomers are younger. The latest U.S. Census figures indicate the average age in Rock Springs is 34 – compared with an average of 47 just a decade ago.
These young families are enrolling their children in local schools, creating employment opportunities for teachers. Public schools in Sweetwater County hired 55 new teachers for the 2011-12 school year.
Hanks expects those numbers to continue to rise. “We’re seeing a real uptick in relocation to our area,” he says. "We’re now dealing with at least two requests for information every day. These are from people who have already made the decision to move here – people who have accepted jobs and are in the process of moving.”
Unemployment is below 5 percent in Sweetwater County, but Hanks says that figure doesn’t tell the whole story.
“We are actually adding jobs, and that’s a positive economic indicator,” he says. “From August 2010 to August 2011, we added 1,000 jobs in our community. We’re gaining jobs, and we’re gaining population.”
And there’s no end in sight.
Future Job Market Strong
“The reason we expect this trend to continue for a while is that we have a lot of workers in several sectors who are reaching retirement age,” Hanks says. “Some of our industries tell us they expect up to 50 percent of their workforce to retire over the next few years.”
Retirement is a factor in the future, agrees Jim Maxfield, human resources manager for Solvay Chemicals. He expects job opportunities to continue at Solvay, which operates a soda ash refinery in Rock Springs.
“The last few years have been very good for the soda ash industry, but no one has a crystal ball. We hope we can maintain the current rate or even grow beyond that,” Maxfield says. “If business stays the same, we will go out recruiting as some of our workers retire.”
Hanks says the large number of people transitioning into retirement provides some economic security for the region. “Even if productivity stayed flat – and we don’t expect that to happen – industries would still have to hire replacement workers to keep pace.”
The new workers being added to the payroll of existing industry have a good example to follow, Maxfield says.
“We’ve been fortunate to have a high caliber of people here locally that have been the essential ingredient making these companies successful.”
Read about more job opportunities in Rock Springs, WY.