The Morgantown metropolitan area is forecast to continue to generate strong job, income and population gains during the next five years, according to a new forecast released Thursday (March 1) at the Morgantown Economic Outlook conference. The annual conference was sponsored by the WVU Bureau of Business and Economic Research in WVU s College of Business and Economics.

During the past five years, the Morgantown metropolitan area (which includes Monongalia and Preston counties) has added 9,000 jobs and driven the unemployment rate down from 4.1 percent in 2001 to 3.2 percent in 2006,said George W. Hammond, research associate professor in the College of Business and Economics. The region also added 2,898 residents during the 2001 to 2005 period, and generated per capita personal income growth of 4.4 percent per yearwell above the rate of inflation and above the state and national growth rates.

Job growth in the Morgantown MSA reflects the concentration of higher education, government, and health care facilities located in the region. The government sector has added 2,900 jobs since 2001, with the majority of those in state government. Health care added 1,940 jobs during the past five years, while construction; trade, transportation, and utilities; and leisure and hospitality added nearly 1,000 jobs each. Manufacturing and professional and business services each added more than 500 jobs during the past five years. Overall, the region has added jobs at a rapid rate, 3.2 percent per year since 2001, which far exceeded average job growth by the state (0.5 percent per year) and the nation (0.7 percent per year).

The outlook calls for continued strong growth in the Morgantown area, which will be among the fastest growing in the state during the next five years,Hammond said. Construction is likely to post the strongest job growth rates during the forecast, reflecting the large amount of building activity getting under way, or planned, during the forecast. That includes expansions at WVU , local hospitals and health care facilities (including medical research), retail expansion, construction related to the utility sector, and additional building in the Wharf District, to name a few.

Overall strong job growth will generate strong income gains.This sets the stage for continued strong population growth in the region, which should come at about the national rate of 0.9% per year (1,000 additional local residents per year). That is 10 times the growth rate currently expected for the state,Hammond said.

Full details are available in the Morgantown MSA forecast publication, which is available on line at Hard copies of the report may be ordered from Patricia McDade at for $10 each.