MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia’s coal industry has suffered an estimated 5,000 job losses in the last two years and the climate in Washington D.C. isn’t one that makes recovery look promising.
During down times, discussion has always turned to diversifying the state’s economy, so the down times won’t be such a large hit in the state.
Eric Bowen, research analyst with the West Virginia University Bureau of Business and Economics Research, said that’s always a good plan whether times are good or bad, but it’s seldom an easy one.
“It’s certainly a difficult prospect,” said Bowen. “Economic development is not easy.”
It may be an uphill climb for West Virginia, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility. West Virginia’s oil and natural gas industries have enjoyed steady and significant growth in the last few years, but transitioning miners to drillers isn’t happening fast.
“So far, the number of jobs in the natural gas sector have not replaced the number of jobs lost in the coal mining sector,” said Bowen. “Natural gas is still a significantly smaller industry in the country than coal mining.”
Bowen said while there are no easy answers to where the next jobs will be for West Virginians to find work, he said it starts with improving the education level of the state’s workforce and continuing to try and lure other industries into the state.