A senior Wyoming Economist says a new report on the state economy is mostly good news, despite lagging natural gas prices.

Jim Robinson says the March 2018 ''Wyoming Insight" report showed natural gas prices declining to an average of $2.18 per British Thermal Units [MMBtu], compared to an average of $2.35 the month before and $2.57 in March of 2017.

But while natural gas prices have been struggling lately, oil prices in March continued a recent trend of remaining over $60 per barrel. The March average of West Texas Intermediate Crude was at $62.57 per barrel, up from a February average of $62.17 per barrel and a March 3017 average of $50.18.

Robinson says even the prices above $50 per barrel sparked some interest in oil exploration in Wyoming, with increased interest at $55 per barrel.

He says with prices hovering at or above $60 per barrel recently, "we are seeing even more activity in the state" on the part of oil companies.

That is reflected in the applications for permits to drill in Wyoming, which was up to 1,770 by the end of February, compared to 1,460 at the same time in 2017.

Despite the lagging natural gas prices, total oil and gas jobs in Wyoming were up by 1,400 at the end of February compared to one year earlier. Improvement was also seen in sales tax collections for the state, which went up by 19.3 percent over the first eight months of Fiscal Year 2018 compared to the same time in Fiscal Year 2017.

Fiscal Year 2018 started on July 1, 2017, and runs through June 30, 2018.

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