A recent study by a West VirginiaUniversity economist predicts more growth for the states Eastern Panhandle and an even lower unemployment rate �€2.9 percent �€by 2006.

The region will continue to beat state and national job growth rates during the next five years, according to the WVU College of Business and Economics study presented Thursday, Sept. 5, during the Eastern Panhandle Economic Outlook Conference at the Martinsburg Holiday

Inn. The region includes Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties in West Virginia.

The Panhandle will”far outperform most regions in the state,”said George Hammond, director of the West Virginia Economic Outlook Project in the Bureau of Business and Economics.”The Eastern Panhandle region has been a star performer, and the forecast calls for it to continue to do very well.”

Hammonds forecast shows that the region will add roughly 900 jobs per year during the 2001-06 period, assuming the national economy avoids recession. This translates into an annual job-growth rate of 2.1 percent, which far outpaces expected state and national growth rates of 0.8 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively. Most of the net job growth in the region comes in the service-producing sectors, especially services and government. Manufacturing jobs in the Eastern Panhandle are forecast to stabilize by 2003, after three straight years of job losses, while construction activity supports continued job gains.

Steady job gains will drive continued improvements in the standard of living of the regions residents, as real per capita income growth will outpace expected state results. Further, continued job growth in the three-county region and in the Washington, D.C., primary metropolitan statistical area will produce strong population growth in the Eastern Panhandle, at rates similar to those posted during the 1990s. Finally, rebounding job growth in the region will help lower the unemployment rate from 3.3 percent in 2001 to 2.9 percent by the end of the forecast.

Copies of the five-year forecast are available on-line atwww.bber.wvu.eduor may be obtained for $10 plus tax by calling 304-293-7831.