WVU forecast: Eastern Panhandle job losses end in 2010

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. —A rebound from job losses in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle won’t occur for another year, according to the latest forecast for the region, issued today by West Virginia University’s College of Business and Economics. The Eastern Panhandle Region includes Berkeley, Jefferson, and Morgan counties.

The forecast was presented today at the Eastern Panhandle Region Economic Outlook conference at the Martinsburg Holiday Inn. The conference was sponsored by Centra Bank. The Gateway New Economy Council, the Martinsburg Berkeley County Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Authorities of Berkeley, Jefferson, and Morgan counties co-sponsored the event. Additional underwriting support was provided by the McLaughlin Economic Outlook Fund.

“The Eastern Panhandle has been hit hard by the housing correction and the national downturn,” said George W. Hammond, associate director of WVU’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research. “However, the local downturn will likely end soon and growth should be positive in 2010.”

Job losses have been widespread so far in 2009, with most sectors reporting employment declines. Only education, health care, federal government and local government added jobs in the second quarter of 2009, compared to the same quarter of last year.

The residential construction slowdown in the Eastern Panhandle is reflected in data on the value of housing starts from FW Dodge. “The value of residential construction activity in the region during the first eight months of 2009 has fallen by 86.6 percent from its peak level during the same period in 2006,” Hammond said. In addition, single-family house prices in the metropolitan areas including the Eastern Panhandle remain well below last year’s levels.

“Overall, growth will likely return to the Eastern Panhandle next year, as the housing correction abates and the national economy grows,” Hammond said. On average during the next five years, the Eastern Panhandle is forecast to generate job growth close to the national rate and above the state rate. Population growth continues at a rapid rate. The report forecasts the region’s unemployment rate to peak at 8.5 percent in 2010 and fall to 6.5 percent by 2013.

Details of the forecast are presented in the Eastern Panhandle Region Outlook: 2009-2013, available free online at www.bber.wvu.edu.

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George W. Hammond
Associate Director, BBER
PDF of full report: www.bber.wvu.edu