Pages tagged "Economic Development News"
Wall Street Journal - Paul Tice’s “Obama’s Appalachian Tragedy” (Dec. 1) wrongly puts most of the blame for West Virginia’s struggling coal industry and economy on recent clean-air regulations. In reality, the increasing cost of mining harder-to-access coal seams is the primary reason for the decline. Read
Coal-mining productivity has dropped by over 50% in the state over the last 15 years and has lost electricity market share to cheaper Western coal and shale gas. Less than 58% of the coal burned in the state’s power plants came from West Virginia coal mines in 2013, down from 72% in 2001. Today, there are about 15,300 coal miners in West Virginia—about 1,000 more than in 2000.
Losing coal jobs is nothing new in West Virginia. During the 1980s the state saw the number of coal jobs fall by half, and we are long way from the 120,000 we had during the 1940s. This longer-term decline is largely due to mechanization.
West Virginia’s coal-mining communities deserve a brighter future. Congress should act swiftly to support the proposed investments in coal-fields communities that will help diversify the economy and help retool workers for emerging opportunities, while shoring up funding for the health and retirement benefits workers have earned.
Associated Press, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Pune Mirror, WRAL.com - The seams of coal in some McDowell County mines are so thin that workers can barely squeeze them down. Eddie Asbury, 66, owns the mines, but still does everything himself. In order to keep business operating with such a paltry amount of coal, Asbury has discarded the shiny, new multimillion-dollar mining machines. His equipment is second-hand stuff that he himself repairs and refurbishes. "It's how we survive," says Asbury, a miner since 1971. Read
Even coal is barely surviving in Central Appalachia — and coal is about the only commodity that the place has.
West Virginia is the only state in the US where more than half of all adults are unemployed. It is tied with Kentucky for the highest percentage of residents collecting disability payments from Social Security. And the death rate among working-age adults is the highest in the nation, 55 per cent higher the national average. And coal, the one source for decent-paying work, is drying up.
Charleston Gazette-Mail - Legislators heard the pros and cons Sunday of proposed legislation to make West Virginia a right-to-work state, with proponents saying it will help grow the state's economy, and opponents calling it an effort to destroy unions and hurt working-class families. Read
Both sides agreed that average wages are lower in right-to-work states, but differed on whether that is a good or bad thing.
James Shirk, a research fellow for the conservative Heritage Foundation, agreed that overall wage rates are 3 percent lower in right-to-work states, but said almost all right-to-work states also have lower costs of living.
"Right-to-work states attract investments and jobs," he said, saying it's no coincidence that foreign automakers have located plants in right-to-work states in the southeast.
Right-to-work laws prohibit union membership, or payment of union dues, as a condition of employment.
Shirk likened unions to monopolies, which he said have no incentive to improve their quality of service.
"Unions do not have to earn their members' support," he said. "Whether they serve them well or not, they have to pay ."
Kenny Perdue, president of the West Virginia AFL-CIO, said not only are wages lower in right-to-work states, but workplace safety is 54 percent lower. Citing recent mine disasters, Perdue suggested the state should not do anything that could weaken workplace safety.
"A right-to-work law does nothing to help West Virginia's economy, and hurts West Virginia working families," he said. "This is not about job creation. It's about attacking unions."
Charleston Gazette-Mail - West Virginia has 1.16 million working-age people between 18 and 65, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. State figures say 750,000 West Virginians hold jobs. That leaves about 400,000 without jobs — around one-third of the workforce. Therefore, the true jobless rate is about five times higher than the official rate of 6 percent. Read
Various studies say the Mountain State has America's worst "workforce participation rate." Only 53 percent of West Virginians hold jobs or search for them, compared to the U.S. average of 63 percent.
A new report from the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy counts all state residents over 16 and says:
"There are about 687,000 West Virginians who are not in the labor force … . About 288,000 of these people in West Virginia are not working because they are retired, while another 81,000 are in school and not looking for work. Close to 100,000 West Virginians are not in the labor force because they are taking care of their homes and families, such as stay-at-home parents or those caring for aging relatives. Approximately 192,000 West Virginians are unable to work, either due to a disability or an illness."
Beckley Register-Herald - An older, unhealthy and uneducated population is why West Virginia ranks last in workforce participation rate nationally. Read
A new report by the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy looks beyond the known and examines what can be done to get West Virginians back to collecting a paycheck.
It's beyond debate, for decades the Mountain State has struggled with low levels of labor force participation. U.S. Department of Labor statistics show West Virginia's labor force participation is a sliver above 50 percent, nearly 10 percent below the national average.
Charleston Gazette-Mail - West Virginia has the highest rate of unemployment in the country, with more than 7 percent of the state's workforce left without a job. Read
But a new report released by the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy Monday says the state's labor problems go much deeper than the roughly 57,000 job seekers who are currently out of work.
Below the dismal employment numbers, West Virginia also has the worst workforce participation rate in the country, meaning the state has the lowest percentage of the adult population actually attempting to find work.
Nationally, federal data shows that more than 62 percent of people 16 years of age or older are employed or looking for work, but in West Virginia, only 53 percent of that age group want to, or are capable of, holding a job.
That labor participation rate removes roughly 687,000 adult West Virginians from the active workforce and places West Virginia in a group of nine other states that have a workforce participation rate below 60 percent. Even then, the second-worst state, Mississippi, trails West Virginia by more than a percentage point.
The State Journal - There's no question West Virginia has struggled with the nation's lowest levels of labor force participation for decades. Read
The Mountain State ranks last nationally in labor force participation with only a little over 50 percent of the state's residents currently working – 9.9 percentage points below the national average, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
According to a new report released Nov. 9 by the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy (WVCBP), low workforce participation in the Mountain State is due to an older, unhealthy and undereducated population. The report examines what a low labor force participation level means, why so many West Virginia's workers are not in the workforce, and what can be done to get them back on the job.
For Immediate Release
Contact Sean O'Leary, 304-720-8682
(Charleston, WV) For decades, West Virginia has struggled with the nation's lowest levels of labor force participation. A new report released today by the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, "State of Working West Virginia 2015: Answers and Solutions to West Virginia's Low Labor Force Participation" examines what a low labor force participation level means, why so many West Virginia's workers are not in the workforce, who they are, and what can be done to get them back on the job. PDF of news release. PDF of full report.
"West Virginia's low level of labor force participation is largely due to its relatively older, unhealthy, and uneducated population," explained Sean O'Leary, Senior Fiscal Analyst with the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy and one of the report's authors. "While the state has consistently had the lowest level of labor force participation in the country, this report uncovers some areas where the state is doing well that we can learn from. For example, the state's college graduates have an above-average labor force participation rate, while rates are also high for workers with families."
West Virginia's low level of labor force participation is one of the state's greatest economic challenges. Improving the state's participation rate greatly depends on improving the state's economy by creating more opportunity for its workers. Policies that help workers stay on the job, and stay healthy, will not only improve the state's labor force participation rate but also its economy.
"To boost labor force participation and economic growth, policymakers need to give families the tools they need to join and stay in the workforce," said Ted Boettner, Executive Director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy and coauthor of the report. "This includes enacting a refundable state EITC that will increase hours worked, expanding child care access to more low-income working mothers, and increasing our investment in higher education and workforce training."
Some Key Findings
- Labor force participation in West Virginia, and in the nation, rose substantially over the latter half of the 20th century, but has declined since 2000.
- Labor force participation in West Virginia lags the nation across all age groups. Labor force participation among prime-age workers (ages 25-54) in West Virginia is also the lowest among the 50 states, indicating that the fact that West Virginia has an older population cannot solely explain the state's labor force participation deficit.
- A statistical analysis shows that the factors that play the most important role in explaining why West Virginia has a lower labor force participation rate than the U.S. average are that the state's population is older, has completed less formal education and is in relatively poor health.
- Policies that could improve West Virginia's low levels of labor force participation include enacting a state earned income tax credit, enhancing childcare access, and increasing access to higher education.
Clarksburg Exponent-Telegram - Natural gas production has taken off in the region over the last seven years, but questions remain about how to ensure West Virginia residents see as much economic benefit as possible from the abundant resources buried underfoot. Read
Officials have pointed to downstream chemical manufacturing processes as having the potential to transform locally produced ethane into long-term employment for state residents. That would come from ethane cracker plants, which "crack" the ethane into polyethylene, a feedstock for many plastics.
In the past few years, ethane cracker projects have been announced in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania, though officials with Odebrecht, the Brazilian conglomerate behind the Wood County cracker plant, have been tepid toward the project ever since oil prices took a dive in 2014.
Charleston Gazette-Mail - The West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy has released a study suggesting that raising the state's severance tax on natural gas liquids could increase revenue and help West Virginia profit from the use of the liquids in state. Read
The study, which was released by the center on Wednesday, lays out a plan to increase the gas severance tax from 5 percent to 10 or 15 percent and would offer reductions on that rate for the gas and liquids that are used in ethane cracker plants or other downstream industries in West Virginia.
According to the study, which analyzed state tax data, the plan could increase state revenue by around $168 million over the next five years, and the authors believe the tax credits could incentivize the building of cracker plants or other chemical manufacturing facilities in West Virginia.
The research for the study was conducted as part of the Multi State Shale Research Collaborative, of which the Center on Budget and Policy is a member.