- Associated Press - Friday, October 3, 2014

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia is expected to experience steady job growth over the next several years, according to a report released by West Virginia University.

The annual West Virginia Economic Outlook report was released on Thursday during the annual West Virginia Economic Outlook conference.

The Charleston Gazette reports (https://bit.ly/1rDB8Ot) oil and gas employment is projected to increase through 2019, while coal jobs are forecast to decline slightly and then remain stagnant. The report says that by 2019, coal will employ slightly more than 15,000 workers and oil and gas will employ a little more than 10,000 workers.

John Deskins, director at of the WVU Bureau of Business and Economic Research, says the state’s losses in the coal industry have overwhelmed gains in other sectors.

“Despite the overall loss of jobs in 2013,” Deskins said in a statement “the year proved to be unusual economically as overall economic output in the state grew at a very strong pace, driven by significant gains in natural gas output.”

But Deskins says those losses are at an end and West Virginia’s economy will add jobs in the near term. The report project employment gains in construction to lead job growth.

Despite some positive economic news, the West Virginia Economic Outlook 2015 also highlights several key challenges the state’s economy faces. While several industries shrunk in the past decade - manufacturing, information other series and financial activities - only financial activities is forecast to remain just below zero percent growth.

“One prominent challenge is the fact that a very low proportion of West Virginians either has a job or is looking for a job. Several other concerns relate to fundamental demographic characteristics, such as the aging of our population, the expected population decline in coming years and poor health outcomes,” Deskins said.

Though West Virginia per-capita income increased 1.5 percent last year, West Virginians earn $4 for every $5 Americans earn.

Personal income and employment growth are expected to grow at faster rates, Deskins said.

Mark Muchow, deputy secretary for the state Department of Revenue, said West Virginia workers need to see more wage growth. Personal income tax revenue has been flat the last two fiscal years.

The state has operated with a revenue decline for two consecutive years, making 7.5 percent budget cuts each year.


Information from: The Charleston Gazette, https://www.wvgazette.com

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