W.Va. job growth moves at slower pace
The job picture is looking a little better across much of the nation, but the forecast is not as bright for West Virginia, according to a recent survey.
The Gallup Poll develops a "job creation index," based on surveys about hiring activities across the country, and the company's statistics show the dramatic impact of the recession. Between 2008 and 2009, the national index dropped from 18 to -1. The index has risen a little each year since, and by 2012, it was back up to 18 -- the same as 2008.
Ohio and Kentucky followed a similar pattern with a big drop and then steady improvement. In fact, Ohio posted an index of 21 for 2012, five points better than 2008. Kentucky is still not back to its 2008 level, but it has improved each year.
In West Virginia, the initial recession job losses were not as severe, and for several years the employment picture looked better than the nation as a whole. But in 2012, the Mountain State began to fall back in the pack. West Virginia's job creation index stood at 14, four points below the national index and among the 10 lowest in the country.
Certainly, the downturn in the coal industry has played a part in that trend, and economists are hopeful that other segments will offset those losses. The West Virginia Economic Outlook done by West Virginia University predicts that the state will return to pre-recession employment levels this year.
But as with the Gallup report, the WVU economists expect job growth in the state to be slower than the nation as a whole. That just serves as a reminder that on all of the economic development fronts -- from education to business climate to workforce readiness -- West Virginia must work harder to avoid falling further behind.