CASPER (WNE) — Wyoming’s unemployment rate ticked up in February, reversing a downward trend experienced by the state after last year’s pandemic-related closures were lifted.

The Equality State ended February with a 5.3% jobless rate, up from 5.1% in January and 5.2% in December, according to figures released by the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services.

Still, the latest numbers offered some positive news: Wyoming’s unemployment rate was nearly a percentage point below the national average of 6.2%.

Fifteen of Wyoming’s 23 counties experienced increases in their unemployment rates in February, the state figures show. Three counties didn’t see a change, while five enjoyed a decrease over the previous month.

Natrona County continues to feel the brunt of Wyoming’s economic slowdown, at least from a jobs perspective. The county, which is an oil and gas hub, saw its unemployment rate rise to 8.9% in February, up a half percentage point from January and more than three points from February 2020, right before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Wyoming never went into a full lockdown like those implemented in some states, though the state did impose significant restrictions on businesses used by the public. The pandemic also exacerbated the difficulties being experienced by the state’s fossil fuels sector, and counties that rely heavily on industry for their economies continue to suffer from some of the state’s highest jobless rates.

The three highest unemployment rates in February were Natrona County (8.9%), Sublette County (8.8%) and Sweetwater County (7.6%).

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