The economy took an extremely welcomed (albeit temporary) financial upswing in December, thanks to people spending money on Christmas gifts, groceries for holiday meals and other supplies.
Not only that, but Dollar General and farm and ranch chain Bomgaars Supply, Inc. plan to open stores in Douglas this year, which may show signs of a positive trend to our economy. (See related story on Bomgaars announcement on the front page.)
Without exaggeration, 2020’s earlier economic nosedive due to terrible oil and gas prices on top of the coronavirus pandemic’s public health mandated business closures had numerous small shop owners wondering if they’d be able to keep their doors open.
The Christmas season has provided a much-needed boost to many business owners, although only time will tell if the economy will continue it’s escalation. But the recent uptick certainly has some businesspeople cautiously optimistic that 2021 bodes better already.
Douglas Hardware Hank Paint and Floor Manager Lisa Powell said the store has had its moments – both up and down – during the past year.
Despite the struggling economy, customers are still hankering for specific types of items, including chemicals and canning jars, Powell said.
“Everybody wants canning jars. Ball, Kerr, all of them. They’re hard to come by right now,” she said. “People make jams and jellies, and dry mixes in the jars for Christmas gifts. It’s like this every year, but right now it’s more than usual. Everyone is staying home due to COVID, and a lot of people are canning.”
And now with the colder weather recently, customers are also coming into the store looking for heaters, lumber and PVC tubing.
“Larry’s looking all the time for inventory; he spends a lot of time on the computer,” she said of the store’s owner, Larry Leake.
Wyoming’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.1% in November from 5.5% in October, according to the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services (DWS).
If people are slowly and consistently returning to work following Wyoming’s peak unemployment rate of 9.6% in April, they would, in theory, have more money to inject into Converse County’s – and the state’s – economy.
Converse County’s unemployment rate stands at 5.1% down from 5.4% in October, according to DWS’ latest report.
DWS Senior Economist David Bullard said it appears the state’s economy is recovering from pandemic-related closures seen earlier in the year and many people have returned to the workforce.
“Back in April and May, we saw large job losses and things have started to return to normal. The exception to that is mining and oil and gas, which have continued to lose jobs and are not recovering. We may be seeing it leveling off. The rest of the economy seems to returning toward normal,” Bullard said.
Taina DeMinck has been operating A Fresh Attitude Floral for 25 years. She said her establishment has been busy over the holidays.
They did more deliveries than usual this year, she said, primarily because people couldn’t or chose not to travel due to the virus. As a result, people sent deliveries to people they couldn’t see in person, with the majority of the deliveries taking place in Douglas.
DeMinck said their deliveries have certainly increased this year, but she can’t put a number on it. Like most years, deliveries have generated more business than in-store sales.
“Because more people do not have fresh trees in their homes, they have turned to these sorts of deliveries instead. It’s a nice way to send something and feel like being there, without being there,” she said.
Hanna Gotz is a cashier at Short Supply LLC in Rolling Hills. She’s been working at the gas and convenience store for three or four months, she said.
She said business has been “good” since she started; most of their customers are wind/energy workers at the windfarm nearby.
“It’s more quiet now,” she said, due to the recent snow and people who went home for the holidays.
Short Supply was previously owned by Janella and Robert Short before they sold it to Miranda and Allen Jennings, Janella said.
Jennings did not return a call to the Budget requesting comment prior to press time.
Bullard, however, appears positive regarding Wyoming’s – and Converse County’s – 2021 economy, at least for the time being.
“Month after month, we’re seeing things have improved in regards to the economy. It’s encouraging,” he said.
DWS will release December’s unemployment numbers Jan. 26.