For about $23.73, a Morgantown couple can have a nice evening outcheaper than most other West Virginia cities and below the �€?cheap-date�€? level nationally, according to a recent study by the West Virginia University College of Business and Economics.

The cost of living for the top income households in Morgantown is comparable to other urbanized areas in the nation, according to the report released by the college’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER) in the Morgantown MSA Monitor.

Although a basic night out might be somewhat less expensive, other costs are higher than average, shows the report, which compares prices in 297 cities across the nation.

�€?Morgantown’s cost-of-living index for the first part of 2006 was fueled by higher than average utility, health care and transportation costs that were balanced by low or average costs for grocery and miscellaneous items,�€? according to BBER economist and manager of the Morgantown ACCRA survey, Amy Higginbotham.

Miscellaneous items include movies (Saturday night first showing on average $7.37 in Morgantown ; $7.50 in Charleston ; and $7.71 nationally), pizza (one medium cheese at Pizza Hut on average $8.99 in Morgantown ; $10.11 in Charleston ; and $10.25 on average nationally), dry cleaning for a men’s suit and a trip to the veterinarian, among others.

Morgantown’s cost of living is being estimated on a quarterly basis by the College of Business and Economics bureau using a national methodology developed and maintained by ACCRA , a nonprofit organization that promotes excellence in research for economic and community development.

The ACCRA Cost-of-Living report scored Morgantown with a composite index of 99.6 for the first quarter of 2006, which means that Morgantown is 0.4 percent below the average cost of living in the U.S. This report used prices of 60 goods and services typically consumed by professional or managerial households in the top 20 percent income level for the area to tabulate its results.

The prices are collected by the BBER economists who actually �€?shop�€? in stores across Morgantown from the list of ACCRA items. More information regarding the report can be found in the June 2006 issue of the Morgantown MSA Monitor.

Job growth up, house price appreciation appears to slow

This issue of the Monitor also shows that Morgantown MSA job growth has far outpaced state and national rates since 2001, with the MSA adding jobs at an annual rate of 2.4 percent per year, compared to 0.4 and 0.3 for the state and the nation, respectively.

�€?Construction job growth contributed to strong job gains during the period,�€? said George W. Hammond, director of the West Virginia Economic Outlook project, which includes forecasts and presentations addressing the outlook for the state and its regional economies. �€?This reflects rising population and per capita personal income in Morgantown.

According to recent estimates, the MSA has added 2,898 residents since 2001. However, with rising 30-year fixed mortgage interest rates, which hit 6.6 percent nationally in mid-May 2006, house price appreciation in the MSA (Morgantown Statistical Area, which includes appears to have slowed in the first quarter of 2006. Even so, single-family house prices are up 10.5 percent over the first quarter of 2005. This is about on par with state house price appreciation (10.6 percent), but is below the national average of 12.5 percent.

The Morgantown MSA Monitor is a quarterly publication of the BBER with underwriting support provided in part by Clear Mountain Bank. Copies of the publication can be found Information about the ACCRA Cost of Living Report can be found