Read the report: http://www.wvpolicy.orgCHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The ability to find jobs -- and the wages and benefits those jobs pay -- continue to pose problems for many people throughout the state of West Virginia.
On Saturday, the West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy released the latest version of its annual study, "The State of Working West Virginia 2012." The report was written by Sean O'Leary and Ted Boettner.
Today, more than half of the Mountain State's 753,900 non-farm jobs are in three sectors: government; education and health services; and trade, transportation and utilities, according to the report.
The public sector alone employs one out of every five non-farm employees.
If West Virginia's state budget gets cut, the report warns, the public sector "could face a decline in employment."
Many job gains made during 2011 have been erased this year, pushing employment levels down to 3,200 fewer jobs than people had before the recession began in December 2007.
West Virginia's population has grown by 3.1 percent since the recession began. That would require another 23,800 jobs to reach pre-recession employment rates.
In recent decades, job quality has declined in terms of benefits given to employees:
* In 2010, 53 percent of all West Virginia employees had employer-covered health insurance policies, down from 73 percent in 1979.
* Today, only 45.9 percent of all West Virginia working people get pension benefits from their employers, down from 57 percent in 1979.
* Median wages, adjusted for inflation, declined from 2010 to 2011. Today, they are $15.02 an hour, compared to the national average of $16.06 an hour.
* The median is a statistic exactly in the middle of any list of numbers. In this case, half of all wages would be above the median and half would be below.
West Virginia's labor force participation rate -- the share of residents over 16 who are working or actively seeking work -- is 54.3 percent, the lowest among all 50 states. The national participation rate is 64.1 percent.
As workers over 55 have been reluctant to retire in today's difficult economy, workers between 16 and 24 are finding it harder and harder to find jobs.
Those young workers make up less than 15 percent of the workforce, yet account for one-third of all unemployed workers.
Today, 23.2 percent of West Virginia's workers are 55 or older, a level topped in only six other states.
These trends, the Center on Budget & Policy study predicts, are likely to spark major demographic shifts in the near future.