WV Center on Budget and Policy > Blog > Economic Development > 1,500 Coal Mining Jobs Created Since Obama Took Office (Updated)

1,500 Coal Mining Jobs Created Since Obama Took Office (Updated)

Over at Coal Tattoo, Ken Ward has a must read piece on why state politicians and the media avoid having a balanced discussion regarding the impact of the coal industry. One of the central reasons why our state is unable to have a rational discussion is the propaganda and inflammatory rhetoric coming from the coal industry.

According to the narrative, there has been a growing “war on coal” ever since President Obama took office in 2009 and the EPA began cracking down on mountain top removal mining permits. According to industry front groups such as Faces of Coal, West Virginia is smack in the middle of “Obama’s NO JOB ZONE,” as see in this billboard along Interstate 64.

While the Obama administration and the EPA may be taking a harder look at mountain top removal mining permits, a quick look at coal mining employment in West Virginia reveals that since Obama took office in the winter of 2009 coal mining employment has grown by over 1,500 jobs or by 7.4%. If we measure from the end of the national recession in June 2009 (or the 2nd Quarter of 2009) to the third-quarter of 2011 (the latest available data), employment in the coal mining industry has grown by 3,100. For comparison, total employment in West Virginia has only grown by 2.9% over this period.

Looking over the last two decades, annual West Virginia coal mining employment was higher in 2011 than at anytime over the last 17 years, according to Workforce West Virginia.  In 1995, there were 22,669 workers employed in coal mining (SIC Code 12) compared to 22,693 during the first three quarters of 2011 (NAICS Code 2121). If you include coal mining support activities (NAICS 213113) – which are separated out when the Census switched to using NACIS Codes in 2001 – employment in coal mining was at 24,515 in 2011 compared to 22,669 in 1995. Any way you look at it, coal mining employment is at a two-decade high.

This all being said, the rise in coal mining jobs has very little to do with the actions of the Obama administration and the EPA. The rise in coal mining employment over this period is due more to the recent spike in coal prices from 2005 to 2011, steady decline of productivity, and the counter-cyclical nature of the energy industry during recessions. While there is a good chance that coal employment will be lower in 2012 do to a decline in customer demand for West Virginia coal – which is reflected in the 2012 drop in coal spot prices – this again will not be related to actions by the Obama administration.

As Ken notes in his blog, if we can move past the rhetoric and political confusion regarding the plight of the coal industry in our state we might be able to chart a better economic course for our future. However, this will only happen if we first look at the facts.

17 Responses to “1,500 Coal Mining Jobs Created Since Obama Took Office (Updated)”

  1. Vicki says:

    Was this 1500 jobs before or after the 750 in Kentucky and almost 200 in West Virginia lost their jobs this past week?cause that knocks close to 1000 off that number? We here in West Virginia and Kentucky are not impressed, a local telemarketer firm supllies more jobs than that in one county……sad

    • ObamaLover says:

      Of course the rednecks would argue this statement. The fact is something you can’t handle because, you are a hillbilly that doesn’t know anything about this. You just know that you hate Obama for no reason, and this proves it.

      • Jackson Van Ness says:

        Shut up you damn Yankee. YOU are the one who knows nothing. The coal industry is vital to America, and it supports hundreds and thousands of jobs, not just directly employed miners but also train crews, truck drivers, power plant employees, barge and riverboat crews, electricity workers, steelworkers, and others. And Obama is killing this vital industry and trying to replace it with impractical, “environmentally friendly” stuff that doesn’t work. The incredibly high taxes he is using to put them out of business are just fueling his anti-American welfare program

      • Meltzen says:

        So you resort to calling the people who helps produce the majority of the electricity in this country hillbillies….. I would take a common sense hillbilly over a clueless blinded city slicker any day.

  2. Iceman says:

    Yes that it sad vicki and its also sad that those suppose to be wonderful telemarketer jobs pay barely min. wage. Our state will fall over this more than likely if that is all they have to offer us!!! Im a coal truck driver who gets paid 14 an hour with full benefits and 401k. There are no other good jobs here! Thanks Obuma

  3. Kim says:

    Where is all these jobs you are speaking of my husband has been on unemployment for 6 months. We have been looking for a mining job that whole time,he is not the only one. Everyone that we know is layed off I really feel Obama wants mining in wv. Completely done away with,soon this whole state is going to be a retirement state. Where’s the job cause we need one BAD!!

  4. B. Grossman says:

    The demand for coal has decreased as the supply of natural gas has increased and is cheaper than coal for industrial use. This is how the capitalist system works, the President does not control the demand or supply of coal, it is industry.

  5. Barry says:

    Natural gas has historically been the most volatile-priced fuel (along with oil). It is only short and temporary displacement of coal. The real coal displacement has begun and is continuing, and is directly caused by Obama’s hit woman Lisa Jackson at the EPA. Without a change in administrations, look for Obama’s promise of bankrupting coal burners to be realized, affecting not just those directly employed in coal mining, but all the customers who enjoy lower electric rates from coal powered electrical generation. Time for a change to a mistake this country should never have made.

  6. Barry says:

    Natural gas has historically been the most volatile-priced fuel (along with oil). It is a only short and temporary displacement of coal. The real coal displacement has begun and is continuing, and is directly caused by Obama’s hit woman Lisa Jackson at the EPA. Without a change in administrations, look for Obama’s promise of bankrupting coal burners to be realized, affecting not just those directly employed in coal mining and power, but all the customers who enjoy lower electric rates from coal-powered electrical generation. Time for correcting a mistake this country should never have made in the first place.

  7. J Jobe says:

    The stats are through the first three quarters of 2011. I see you said he has been unemployed for six months. So I quess worked till then. I’m sorry for your hard times. But it does not take away from the facto that more coal jobs have been created under Obama than anyone else since Clinton. The republicans will anything to get rid of him. I know the debt is up but sometimes you have to spend money to stop the bleeding. We were losing 700,000 jobs a month at the end of Bush. In the last 29 months there has been 4.5 million jobs in the private sector. But the economy has turned around and it needs to turn more. Romney created 104,000 jobs with two companies but he was involved in many others. He signed into law in Massachusetts the exact same health care bill they call Obamacare. He is not the man he wants you to believe he is.

  8. Josh says:

    Name 1 regulation that the EPA has put in place that affects underground coal mining and has cost miners jobs since Obama became president? Yes they are looking at mountain top removal permits harder but with good reason. Have you ever flown in a plane over WV? Our mountains are dying. The newer regulations that affect air emissions don’t even go into effect until 2013 and 2014, the ones affecting the plants now were put in place under the clean air act and Richard Nixon signed that. Where was your outrage at Bush in 2003 when mining jobs were under 16k? Yes 2012 has been a tuff year on the mining industry, but I didn’t see any of these hypocrites praising Obama in 2011 when WV economy was the third largest growing economy in the US. When every mine was hiring and everyone’s wages were going up. It’s easy for you to bash him in the bad times because you want someone to blame, but you forget him in the good times as well.

  9. Nana says:

    “This is a situation that has sadly become all too familiar under the Obama administration’s war on coal. Alpha Natural Resources Tuesday announced it will be scaling back its coal production, eliminating 1,200 jobs and closing eight mines in Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. Alpha’s chief executive officer, Kevin Crutchfield, lamented “a regulatory environment that’s aggressively aimed at constraining the use of coal.”

    The House on Friday plans to launch a counterattack to the administration’s relentless efforts to regulate coal into oblivion, by voting on the Stop the War on Coal Act to prevent more job losses and plant closures. This is a series of bills that aim to stop the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory assault on the U.S. coal power sector.

    The package includes the Energy Tax Prevention Act that we introduced in the House and Senate respectively – and passed the House with bipartisan support. Our legislation would stop the EPA from using the Clean Air Act to impose a costly cap-and-tax agenda that would burden broad sectors of the economy.

    Consider, OhioAmerican Energy, this summer announced it would close its coal mining operations in Brilliant, Ohio. It cited “regulatory actions by President Barack Obama and his appointees” as the “entire reason.” GenOn announced in February that it would shutter 13 percent of its generating capacity by 2015, again due to new environmental regulations. FirstEnergy announced in January the early retirement of six plants in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland, due to the high cost and uncertainty associated with new EPA regulations.

    The list goes on. And the EPA is not only targeting coal mines, it is targeting the most significant source of our affordable electricity, coal-fired power plants. More than 200 coal-based electric generation units are due to be shut down, partly due to the EPA’s regulatory assault, accorded to the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity analysis, released this week. The closing of 204 coal units stretches across 25 states and represents 31,000 megawatts of generating capacity. This is the equivalent to turning off the lights across the entire state of Ohio.” [http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.Blogs&ContentRecord_id=e90d2082-96e8-a288-6675-2ce01035c3dd]

    • margaret says:

      There is no such thing as clean coal. Industries come to an end (remember steel) and we have used coal for energy for far too long. I am from PA and does anyone remember the coal fires (Centralia) that still burn and destroyed a whole community. What is needed is retraining for the miners. A move to solar,wind,hydro. Perhaps that is where the energy spent on talking and wishing on what was to innovating on what resources exist for actual retraining. Pretty good info on jobs that miners already have training for. Check it out. http://www.wsaz.com/news/headlines/Laid-Off-Coal-Miners-Receive-Funding-for-Job-Retraining-174494311.html We have to begin to look to the future and not dwell on the past. We can be victims or NOT.

      Remember, these dodos who are eliminating your jobs have already made their money primarily off your backs, health, and your lives. The bottom line is what they care about, you are replaceable and when they can no longer make their millions and sometimes billions they move on. Are the mining companies offering retraining options for their misplaced workers? I would bet not and if I am wrong, I will be happy to be so. I am a 62 year old restaurant manager. Not employed and having difficulty finding employment. I went back to school in Legal Studies. You must take action and muster as much active participation in your life as possible. I will keep rooting for your success.

    • Debbie Harrison says:


  10. Debbie Harrison says:

    Well there might have been 1500 coal mining jobs in 2011, but he company my husband worked for Alpha Natural Resources, laid off over 1200 by 2013, sort of ate up that 1500 did it not? Since then it has been one company after another laying off..Talk about gas, if all the coal fired electric companies turn to gas and must be out all that money to switch, who is going to pay the difference, the customer..My electric bill is already high enough. As far as solar, what do you do when there is not enough sun???lol Freeze, we don’t receive a lot of sun in WV during the winter months. If you use wind, and if you live in a mountainous region like WV, oops once again, the mountains must come down and we all know how you tree huggers love those trees, cannot do that..One person talks about training, what can one train for when there are no jobs to train for. No coal taxes, all other companies close..Ever hear of the domino effect..So give me a break..If you ask me the biggest part of you that is against coal has never ever had to rely upon on it to pay your mortgage and buy your groceries..I have been married to my husband for 32 years and we have never, ever been this poor..Obama is killing the middle class working man..

  11. go coal says:

    I wish we would just do away with the EPA… they took our jobs . While we are at it we should give the coal companies more tax breaks, if they get more money they hires more people. Yes, i know black lung is sadly making a comeback, but the government writes the check to pay for that. And someone please tell me why we need mountains…If we level them all and fill in the creeks and make a place to store all of the fracking chemicals so they dont get in our water. But dont worry if it does… the government always pays to clean up the mess any way. I love to fish, even though they say you can only eat 1 fish from some of the rivers because of polution… ive been eating lots for years and it hasnt killed me yet. Plus the thought one day being able to shoot a 2 headed deer makes me smiles.

    Facts are facts people. Im a fan of coal… just not sure coal is a fan of me!

  12. Jackson Van Ness says:

    Coal jobs have dropped considerably since 2011, as have railroad coal tonnages. It seems like it can’t get much worse. Coal really is a clean fuel, and it’s cheap, too. Let’s just hope the industry manages to stay alive until we can get the liberals out of office, and we get a presidenet who’ll help the industry

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