WV Center on Budget and Policy > Blog > Jobs and the Economy > Is West Virginia’s Unemployment Rate 9.2%?

Is West Virginia’s Unemployment Rate 9.2%?

Earlier this week Workforce West Virginia revealed that our state’s unemployment rate (seasonally adjusted) for April was down slightly,  from 9.5 percent to 9.2 percent, with about 72,000 “unemployed” workers. However, these figures do not reveal the number of workers who’ve dropped out of the labor force either because they’ve can’t find work, have  gone back to school, or have left the state.  These workers are no longer counted  in the labor force because they are not actively seeking employment.

So, is West Virginia’s unemployment rate really 9.2% or, does this latest figure underestimate the true number of people who would take a job, if one were available? 

Since the recession started in December 2007, West Virginia’s labor force has shrunk 3.8 percent from peak to trough, a loss of 30,791 workers.  If we included the 31,000 workers who have dropped out of the state’s labor force, the unemployment rate would  increase from 9.2% to 13%, representing a total of 103,300 jobless workers in West Virginia. This figure is probably a lot closer to the  “real” jobless rate in West Virginia.

3 Responses to “Is West Virginia’s Unemployment Rate 9.2%?”

  1. Elizabeth Damewood Gaucher says:

    Very exciting about the WVCBP starting a blog! I am sure you will get some great dialogue going here once it all warms up.

    Both your coal mining jobs #s and the unemployment #s do a nice job opening up the wider concerns connected to policy setting and overall economic health in West Virginia.

    I’m so glad the Center is active and keeps these questions in the public eye. Too often we get on the “one source/one agenda” definition of ecobnomic data. Far be it from me to say what the “best” sources and definitions are, but surely we all know it’s more complext than meets the eye in every case.

  2. Jonathan Gwinn says:

    Individuals in which unemplyment compensation expires are not counted as unemployed??? Only people receiving unemployment comp are counted as unemployed??

  3. Pete Wilmoth says:

    Jonathan,

    The way the Department of Labor calculates the national unemployment rate each month is disingenuous in many ways and often understates the severity of the joblessness problem. (I don’t know offhand if WV has the same issues, but I would suspect the state follows the same methodology as the feds and hence has a lot of the same issues.)

    For example, you’re only counted as “unemployed” if you’re actively looking for work, so folks who can’t simply can’t find prospects for unemployment are often left out. This is called “the discouraged worker effect.” Also, part-time employees are counted as “employed” and are often conflated with full-time workers. So you can imagine all kinds of situations where the statistics are pretty imperfect.

    For more reading, try here: http://www.bls.gov/cps/cps_htgm.htm#employed

    Pete Wilmoth
    Research Associate
    WV Center on Budget & Policy

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