In 20 years, a “help wanted” sign in West Virginia might be as ubiquitous as hills and hollows.

The state’s working-age population is expected to drop by an estimated 100,000 in the next two decades, according to a new projection released by the West Virginia University Bureau of Business and Economic Research, a component of the WVU College of Business and Economics.

That drop could translate into the loss of at least 60,000 jobs, said Dr. Christiadi a BBER demographer who uses one name. “That loss would adversely impact the state economy.”

“These projections show the problems facing the state over the next two decades, absent significant public policy changes that provide more incentives for human capital investment and work force participation,” he said. “We need more incentives for seniors to actively participate in the work force as well as increases overall in worker productivity. This also means making our state more receptive to in-migration of skilled workers.”

West Virginia’s population is expected to grow 0.24 percent per year through 2015 before slowing through 2025 and staying at around zero through 2030 before dropping. Even during the growth period, the state’s total working-age population, defined as those between 16 and 64 years of age, will shrink considerably. Between 2010 and 2030, the state’s older working-age population (ages 45-64), is expected to drop by nearly 57,000 people, the largest drop among all working-age population categories. At the same time, the state’s young working-age population (ages 25-44), is expected to shrink by more than 32,000 people, while the state’s youngest working-age population (ages 16-24) will shrink by more than 10,000.

“Growth is expected to gradually slow over time because as the population gets older, net in-migration rates tends to decline and, at the same time, deaths eventually outnumber births,” Christiadi said.

The drop may not be as large because a percentage of the population may continue working after turning 65, Christiadi said, but the drop in the state’s workforce will still be significant.

The projection also shows that Berkeley County is expected to grow the strongest at 2.02 percent per year through 2030, followed by Jefferson County at 1.44 percent, Monongalia County at 1.18 percent and Morgan County at 0.91 percent. Kanawha County will continue to lose its population, but as home of the state capital, the county will stay resilient and remain the state’s most populous county.

The report is available free of charge at http://be.wvu.edu/demographics/populationprojection.htm.

-WVU-

lw/08/24/11

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CONTACT:
Dr. Christiadi
304-293-1801 or Christiadi@mail.wvu.edu