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Construction suffers most as W.Va. keeps losing jobs

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For the 10th month in a row, West Virginia suffered job losses, according to the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy.

Nonfarm employment fell by 900 jobs in November. The construction industry, which was the hardest hit, lost 1,200 in one month.

Total nonfarm employment fell to 13,900 jobs below the state's pre-recession level and its lowest level since early 2010, wrote Sean O'Leary in the December issue of Jobs Count -- a monthly newsletter published by the Center on Budget and Policy.

Between January and November, West Virginia's government sector lost the most jobs, a decrease of 5,700, while the mining sector lost 5,200.

Since December 2007, when the recession began, West Virginia's unemployment rate has risen from 4.1 percent to 7.3 percent last month.

During those five years, the state's manufacturing jobs dropped by 19.4 percent, while construction jobs dropped by 11 percent. Coal mining and logging jobs rose by 3.1 percent during that period, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The construction industry's 3.4 percent job loss in November alone was the industry's worst monthly loss in more than three years, O'Leary's newsletter reported.

In November, small increases in employment occurred in the leisure and hospitality, trade, transportation, utilities and government employment sectors.

But overall, O'Leary wrote, this "has been a poor year for job growth in West Virginia, with total [nonfarm] employment falling by 17,500 jobs."

Interestingly, West Virginia's total personal income grew between 2007 and 2011, putting the state among the top 10 in the nation in that category.

During those years, total personal income in West Virginia grew from $58.7 billion to $62 billion, adjusted for inflation.

"But West Virginia's relatively good personal income growth was not due to a strong, healthy economy. Instead, payments from Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans' benefits and unemployment compensation accounted for most of West Virginia's personal income growth," according to the Jobs Count newsletter.

Between 2007 and 2011, earnings from wages and salaries rose by 4.6 percent in West Virginia, while income from government programs rose by 17 percent.

The percent of West Virginia's total income coming from safety-net programs increased from 26.9 percent in 2007 to 27.5 percent in 2011, hitting a peak of 29.3 percent in 2009.

Today, West Virginia gets a higher percentage of its total personal income from government support programs that any other state in the nation.

"Nationally, government programs account for 17.9 percent of personal income," O'Leary wrote.

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.


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