The Wheeling metro area saw significant growth in 2013 and is expected to post continued output and job growth over the next few years, according to the latest forecast from the West Virginia University College of Business and Economics.
The economic forecast was released at the Wheeling Economic Outlook Conference on October 16.
“Economic output in Wheeling exploded in 2013 and the economy added more than 1,000 jobs, driven primarily by the boom in the region’s energy sector,” said Dr. John Deskins, Director of the WVU Bureau of Business and Economic Research. “Of the 381 metropolitan statistical areas in the U.S., only three grew faster than the Wheeling MSA in terms of economic output in 2013.”
“We expect Wheeling’s economy to continue to build upon recent gains, posting close to one percent job growth annually in the coming years,” Deskins said.
However, Deskins cautioned, there are factors that present uncertainty for West Virginia and for all states. “Lingering risks to the global and U.S. economies, the inevitable rise in interest rates, and an uncertain environmental regulatory climate create risk that clouds our forecast,” Deskins said.
“The natural resources and mining sector has been by far the largest contributor to recent regional job growth,” said Brian Lego, BBER research assistant professor, “driven by an explosion in natural gas production over the past three years, as well as strong growth in coal production in Marshall and Ohio counties.”
Lego said other sectors of the Wheeling economy have also added jobs over the past year, such as construction, professional and business services, and trade, transportation, and utilities.
The natural resources and mining sector and the construction sector are expected to produce the fastest rates of job growth in the coming years. And growth is expected in most other sectors as well, according to Lego.
“Personal income per capita in the state and the region is around 80 percent of the national average, but given the relatively strong performance the state and the region have 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 details some negatives in the region’s economy.
“High in importance on the list of negatives is the fact that a low proportion of Wheeling-area residents either has a job or is looking for a job. A second concern is that the population has been on a downward trend for some time and is forecast to decline further in coming years,” Deskins said.
The full economic outlook report is available from the WVU Bureau of Business and 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, visit be.wvu.edu.
Contact: John Deskins, Ph.D., WVU College of Business and Economics
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