Checking in on West Virginia's Struggling Economy (March 2016 Edition)
West Virginia's economy has not been faring well lately, with reports indicating the state has slipped back into a recession. Nationally, the economy has seen some relatively strong performances recently, but low energy prices and declining coal production have hurt mining states like West Virginia. Here a some indicators demonstrating the state's weakening economy.
West Virginia's unemployment rate for March 2016 was 6.5%, well above the national average of 5.0%. West Virginia's rate ranked below only Alaska, D.C., and Illinois for the highest rate in the country. West Virginia's unemployment rate has increased by 0.3 percentage points in the past three months, while the national rate has been unchanged.
The pace of West Virginia's decline has picked up recently, even as the national economy grows. Employment in West Virginia has fallen by 500 over the past three months, and the state has lost 5,200 jobs since March of last year. West Virginia is one of only six states to lose jobs from March 2015 to March 2016, and nationally, the economy added 2.8 million jobs over that time period.
Unsurprisingly, the mining industry is the major source of job loss in West Virginia in the past year. Employment in the mining and logging sector in West Virginia has fallen by 5,700 jobs in the past year, a decline of 20.5%. No other industry has come close to the losses of the mining sector. Both manufacturing and wholesale trade struggled losing 700 jobs each in the past year, a decline of 1.5% and 3.1% respectively, while the construction, transportation and utilities, information, and professional and business services all experienced losses of 500 jobs or fewer in the past 12 months.
In contrast, the retail trade, financial activities, and leisure and hospitality industries all saw employment growth over 1% since last year. Employment in the retail trade industry increased by 1,000 jobs, in the leisure and hospitality industry by 800 jobs, and in the financial activities industry by 500 jobs. Employment also increased by 800 jobs in the education and health services industry, while public sector employment at all levels of government increased by 600 jobs, a 0.4% increase over last year.