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WVU economic forecaster: Slow growth ahead for West Virginia

November 15, 2012
The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia is expected to post modest job growth over the next few years, according to the latest forecast from the West Virginia University College of Business and Economics released today at the 19th annual West Virginia Economic Outlook Conference in Charleston.

"Uncertainty in the global and national economies will have an effect on West Virginia's growth. We expect a continued, but slow recovery from the effects of the job losses during the 2008 recession," said Paul Speaker, spokesperson for the Bureau of Business and Economic Research in the College.

West Virginia lost 23,000 jobs from the third quarter of 2008 to the fourth quarter of 2009. During the following six quarters, the state added back more than half the jobs lost during the downturn.

"Overall, the state is likely to continue to expand during the next five years, mirroring the national economy with slightly lower average annual improvements," Speaker said. "The forecast calls for West Virginia's job growth to average 1.2 percent per year through 2017, which is slightly less than the expected national rate of job growth."

Job growth in natural resources and mining slowed and reversed direction in 2012 and is expected to continue a slow decline during the next five years. This reflects contrasting trends in coal mining and oil and gas extraction. Positive annual growth is expected in several other sectors including construction, professional business services, education and health care. Job gains in health care are related to the aging of the state's residents. Jobs in professional and business services expand as state and national growth raises demand for business services like accounting, legal, management, computing and call center services. The trade, transportation and utilities sector will add jobs during the next five years, with growth expected to be strongest in the near term.

Another bright spot for the state's economy is the construction of the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve and the associated opportunities in construction and hospitality/tourism. This 10,600-acre plot in Fayette and Raleigh counties is under construction for the 2013 National Boy Scout Jamboree, which is expected to draw about 40,000 members of the Boy Scouts of America and 75,000 more tourists. Even larger numbers are expected for the World Scout Jamboree that will take place in 2019.

"Sustained job growth during the forecast translates into a gradually declining state unemployment rate during the next five years," said Speaker. "The forecast calls for the West Virginia unemployment rate to fall to 5.7 percent by the end of 2017."

Continued, but slow, job growth during the forecast translates into inflation-adjusted income growth. The forecast calls for West Virginia real per capita income growth to average 2.2 percent per year during the next five years. That is faster than growth during the past five years but is below the expected growth nationally.

 
 

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