A West Virginia University economic forecast issued Wednesday (Nov. 6) predicts 1,300 jobs will be added each year during the next five years in the I-79 high technology corridor region, about the same number of jobs added the past five years.

The WVU Bureau of Business and Economic Research forecast calls for the region consisting of Harrison, Lewis, Marion and Monongalia counties to post continued job, income and population gains during the next five years, assuming revived national growth. The region is forecast to achieve growth in excess of state results and close to expected national growth rates.

“The concentration of highly educated residents in the region sets the stage for gains in higher-paying service-producing-sector jobs,”said George Hammond, director of the West Virginia Economic Outlook Project in the College of Business and Economics.”Gains are expected in biometrics, health care research and computer programming. Spurred by overall job gains, inflation-adjusted personal income growth is forecast to outpace the state average.”

This job growth will include strong gains in business services, including computer programming and health care services, with additional help from growth in construction, including a large expansion at the WVUHealthSciencesCenter. Growth is also expected in government, including biometrics; finance, insurance and real estate; and trade jobs.

The combination of job and income growth will push the unemployment rate down from 5.3 percent in 2002 to 3.8 percent by 2006. Job and income growth during the forecast will sustain population growth of roughly 370 residents per year over the next five years.

The I-79 High-Tech Corridor sustained job growth in 2001, in contrast to state results. The region posted job gains in mining and construction last year but suffered job losses in manufacturing. Most service-producing sectors also gained employment last year, with the exception of trade employment, which posted its second consecutive net job decline. Steady job gains drove the regions rate of unemployment down from 4.7 percent in 2000 to 4.1 percent in 2001, even though preliminary estimates suggest that the region gained residents during the year.

Partial funding for this forecast was provided by the I-79 Strategic Planning Group and Mountaineer Development Council. The complete report can be found at the bureaus Web site:http://www.bber.wvu.edu.