W.Va. economy gains 900 jobs to end 2012
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia's economy ended 2012 on a positive note after 10 straight months of job losses, when December saw a gain of 900 non-farm jobs.
In December, the Mountain State had a total of 746,900 jobs -- still 13,400 jobs less than before the economic recession began in December 2007.
The state's unemployment rate grew in December from 7.3 percent to 7.5 percent, according to "Jobs Count" -- a monthly report released by the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy.
Sean O'Leary, a policy analyst for the Center who prepares the reports, pointed out employment changes in December were relatively "small" for the state's major job sectors:
* Manufacturing companies added 700 jobs, an increase of 1.5 percent.
* Construction employers added 400 jobs, an increase of 1.2 percent.
* Government jobs rose by 400. The education and health services sector also added 400 jobs -- an increase of 0.3 for each sector.
Some economic sectors experienced job losses:
* The trade, transportation, and utilities sector lost 800 jobs, a 0.6 percent drop.
* Coal mining and logging companies saw small declines in jobs. So did the professional and business services sector. Employment dropped by 0.3 percent for both sectors.
During the five years since the recession began, O'Leary points out, some employment sectors were harder hit than others.
The bulk of West Virginia's job losses, which totaled 13,400, came from two employment sectors over the past five years:
* Trade, transportation and utility companies lost 12,000 jobs.
* Manufacturing businesses lost 10,600 jobs. Construction companies also lost jobs since 2007.
But the education and health services sectors added 12,300 jobs, reflecting the nationwide growth in health-care jobs.
The new "Jobs Count" report also mentions an increasing correlation between education and wages.
In 1980, West Virginia ranked dead last in the percentage of its work force with college degrees. But the Mountain State ranked 21st in median hourly wages.
In 2009, only 23.9 percent of West Virginia workers had college degrees; only Arkansas and Wyoming had lower percentages. Nationally, 32 percent of all workers had college diplomas.
But in 2011, West Virginia's median hourly wage of $15.02 dropped the state to 36th nationally.
Economic changes have made the link between wages and education stronger, O'Leary argues.
"Thirty years ago, it was relatively easy to find a high-paying job in manufacturing, even if one only had a high school education," according to "Jobs Count."
"Today, those types of jobs have all but disappeared, and most high-paying jobs tend to require a college degree, making a highly educated workforce more important than ever."
Over the past 30 years, the state has lost thousands of good paying jobs in industries like chemicals, coal and steel.
A full copy of the report is available at: www.wvpolicy.org/december-2012-jobs-count.
Reach Paul J. Nyden at email@example.com or 304-348-5164.