The number of working-age people is on the decline in West Virginia, which could present a major challenge for the state’s continued economic growth. The decrease was outlined in estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau and evaluated by the West Virginia University Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

Dr. Christiadi, a demographer in BBER, which operates within the WVU College of Business and Economics, said West Virginia’s population estimates show decreases in critical areas. Such areas include the prime working-age population, the K-12 population and the population of children less than five years of age.

Additionally, the overall number of the working-age population ages 18-64 decreased by 0.03 percent between July 1, 2010, and July 1, 2011.

“There is important statistical data in these population estimates that shows a continuing decline in some critical areas,” said Christiadi.

Some of those changes that occurred in West Virginia’s population between July 1, 2010, and July 1, 2011, include:

• prime working-age population (people ages 25-44) saw the largest drop of 0.6 percent; more importantly, this trend took place in 48 of 55 counties (87.3 percent) and 13 counties (23.6 percent) declining more than 2 percent;
• K-12 population (people ages 5-17) dropped 0.5 percent; 41 of the state’s 55 counties (74.5 percent) experienced the decline, with 12 of 55 counties (21.8 percent) declining more than 2 percent;
• population under five years old dropped 0.3 percent; the decline took place in 31 of the state’s 55 counties (56.4 percent); and
• college-age population (people 18-24 years of age) grew 0.9 percent.

“The year of 2011 may be the start of the new trend where the number of state’s working-age population gradually shrinks over time,” said Christiadi. “This is because the number of people turning 18 years old every year is outweighed by the number of ‘baby boomers’ turning 65 years old and the loss from net migration, primarily for people age 25 to 44.”

The decline of the population 25-44 years of age was driven mainly by the loss from net migration for people at the ages of 25 to 29 and 35 to 39.

The estimates show that growth in the state varies among different population age groups, and that patterns of growth-by-age vary greatly across counties.

“When it comes to people getting or changing jobs, the state still sees more people moving out rather than moving in. In addition, West Virginia has more and more out-of-state college students, which partly explains why we see more college graduates moving out of the state,” Christiadi said.

The decline of the K-12 population is driven by both the loss from net migration and the decline in births over time. “The decline of the K-12 population could also mean that it becomes more challenging for the state to get more West Virginian natives into college,” said Christiadi.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates show that the state’s median age rose from 41.4 to 41.5 during the 2010-11 period. In comparison, the U.S. median age rose from 37.2 to 37.3. During the same period, the share of population 65 years and over also rose from 16.1 percent to 16.2 percent in the state, compared to an increase from 13.1 to 13.3 percent nationally.

While the state population 65 years and over grew by 1.0 percent, the population under 65 years old decreased by 0.1 percent. In the U.S., the 2.3 percent growth of population 65 years and over was accompanied by a 0.5 percent growth of population under 65 years old.



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CONTACT: Dr. Christiadi or 304.293.1801