10-2-13 Economic forecast for West Virginia: Steady growth ahead

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CHARLESTON, W.Va.—West Virginia is expected to post steady job growth over the next few years, according to the latest forecast from the West Virginia University College of Business and Economics. The forecast will be released at the 20th Annual West Virginia Economic Outlook Conference in Charleston.

“West Virginia has enjoyed some significant economic gains over the past year, including the addition of around 3,000 jobs, and growth in personal income per capita that well exceeds the national average,” said Dr. John Deskins, Director of the WVU Bureau of Business and Economic Research. “We expect West Virginia’s economy to continue to build upon recent gains, posting around one percent job growth annually in the coming years.”

However, Deskins cautioned, there are factors that present uncertainty for West Virginia and all states. “Lingering risks to the global and U.S. economies, the inevitable rise in interest rates, and an uncertain environmental regulatory climate create uncertainty that clouds our forecast,” Deskins said.

“The natural resources and mining sector has been the largest contributor to statewide net job growth over the past few years,” he said, “driven heavily by the fact that natural gas production in the state has more than doubled in the past two years.”

Deskins went on point out that several other sectors of significance for the West Virginia economy have added jobs or have stabilized over the past year. The government sector has been the one major part of the state’s economy to lose jobs.

“Personal income per capita in the state is still below the national average, but given the strong performance the state has enjoyed recently, the ratio of state personal income per capita relative to the national average is at its highest level in 35 years,” Deskins said. “Another highlight in the West Virginia economy is export activity. Exports have grown dramatically in recent years. Today, exports account for more than 16 percent of the state’s output; that figure was just over five percent 12 years ago.”

Despite a significant amount of positive news, the West Virginia Economic Outlook 2014 also details some negatives in the state’s economy.

“High in importance on the list of negatives is the fact that a very low proportion of West Virginians either has a job or is looking for a job. A second key concern is that population growth in the state has been very slow in recent years, and is forecast to decline at a modest rate in coming years,” Deskins said. The BBER director also noted that West Virginians fare poorly on several important health outcomes, and that this constrains the state’s economic potential.

“It is also important to recognize that the state has performed very unevenly in recent years, with some counties posting very little to no economic growth recently,” Deskins said.

Full details are available in the printed publication available from the WVU Bureau of Business and Economic Research for $20 per copy, or for free download in PDF format at www.be.wvu.edu/bber. Visit www.be.wvu.edu/bber/publications.aspx to purchase the report or view other publications by the BBER.

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