West Virginia is expected to post steady job growth over the next few years, reversing the more recent trend of job losses, according to the latest forecast from the West Virginia University College of Business and Economics released today (Oct. 2) at the 21st Annual West Virginia Economic Outlook Conference.

“West Virginia has lost jobs over the past year or so, as losses in coal have overwhelmed gains in other sectors,” said Dr. John Deskins, director of the WVU Bureau of Business and Economic Research. “But we believe that these losses are at an end and that West Virginia’s economy will add jobs in the near terms, posting around 0.9 percent job growth annually in the coming years.”

“Despite the overall loss of jobs in 2013,” Deskins said, “the year proved to be unusual economically as overall economic output in the state grew at a very strong pace, driven by significant gains in natural gas output.”

However, Deskins cautioned, there are factors that present uncertainty for West Virginia and all states. “Lingering risks to the global and U.S. economies, the inevitable rise in interest rates, and an uncertain environmental regulatory climate create uncertainty that clouds our forecast,” Deskins said.

“The natural resources and mining sector has been extremely volatile over the past few years,” said Brian Lego, BBER research assistant professor. “Natural gas output has skyrocketed and a significant number of jobs have been added in the industry, but this has not been enough to make up for the thousands of coal jobs lost since 2011.”

Lego went on to explain that construction is expected to post the fastest rate of job growth in the state in coming years, followed primarily by service-providing sectors.

“Personal income per capita in the state is still at 80 percent of the national average, but given the relatively strong performance the state has enjoyed over the past five or six years, the ratio of state personal income per capita relative to the national average is at its highest level since data collection began in the late-1920s,” Deskins said.

Despite a significant amount of positive news, the West Virginia Economic Outlook 2015 also highlights several key challenges the state’s economy faces.

“One prominent challenge is the fact that a very low proportion of West Virginians either has a job or is looking for a job. Several other concerns relate to fundamental demographic characteristics, such as the aging of our population, the expected population decline in coming years and poor health outcomes,” Deskins said.

“It is also important to recognize that the state has performed very unevenly in recent years, with some counties posting very little to no economic growth recently,” said Deskins.

The full economic outlook report is available from the WVU Bureau of Business & Economic Research for free download in PDF format at www.be.wvu.edu/bber. For further information about the WVU College of Business and Economics, please visit be.wvu.edu.



CONTACT: John Deskins; WVU College of Business and Economics
304.293.7876; john.deskins@mail.wvu.edu

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