An economist at the West Virginia University College of Business and Economics predicts that the economy in and around Elkins will recover from the recent recession, with unemployment falling to 5.4 percent during the next five years.

“The outlook for the Elkins region calls for rebounding growth during the next five years, as the region recovers from mild job losses in 2001,”said George Hammond, director of the West Virginia Economic Outlook Project. The Elkins region consists of Barbour, Lewis, Randolph, Tucker and Upshur counties.

The outlook for the region depends in part on the performance of the national and international economies, said Dr Hammond, who presented his forecast Monday, Sept. 16, to the Elkins Rotary. The forecast calls for the U.S. economy to gradually rebound during 2002 and into 2003, with real gross domestic product growth rising from 1.2 percent in 2001 to 2.5 percent in 2002 and 3.6 percent in 2003.

This acceleration in the national economy boosts growth in the region, with job growth reviving and the unemployment rate trending down from 7.1 percent in 2002 to 5.4 percent by 2006. Overall during the five-year period, the outlook calls for the region to roughly match growth rates posted during the last half of the 1990s (1.3 percent per year), with rough stability in mining employment, job gains in construction, manufacturing (including wood products), trade, services and government.

The Elkins region topped state job and per capita personal income growth during the last half of the 1990s but posted slower population growth during the period and a higher unemployment rate in 2001. The regions job gains were paced by the coal mining and natural gas sectors (in contrast to the state and the nation), construction activity related to major highway improvements (Corridor H), and gains in wood products manufacturing (Bruce Hardwoods recently announced plans to add 90 jobs in RandolphCounty). However, job growth was nonexistent in trade and relatively slow in the services sector during the period. Overall, the regions performance during the last half of the decade was similar to the state average, reflecting a similar industrial mix.

Complete details of the report are available Printed versions are available for $10 by calling 304-293-7534.