The Mountain State ranked 50th for the first time in CNBC’s 11-year ranking system. Across 10 different categories, West Virginia ranked worse than 40th in six groups. This includes economy, where it placed last.
“The state is 1 of only 7 whose economies shrank in 2016,” journalist Scott Cohn said. “The decline in state GDP of 0.9 percent for the year was not the biggest in the nation, but West Virginia did not have much to lose.”
Cohn explained more of the state’s problems in an article, “In an economic death spiral: West Virginia is America’s worst state for business in 2017.”
The rankings were determined by factors including economic output, infrastructure, economic growth, livability and educational opportunity and success. West Virginia scored 942 out of a possible 2,500 points.
Cohn said poor forecasts of coal mining hurt West Virginia’s ranking, adding the state is not ready to adapt to dwindling coal production. He also noted how the Mountain State has the highest overdose death rate and the least-educated workforce in the United States
One report Cohn mentioned is from the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the West Virginia University College of Business and Economics. The analysis, “Coal Production in West Virginia: 2017-2040,” said coal production would increase over the next three years before declining to 80 million tons by 2030.
“The state is 1 of only 4 that lost jobs last year, down by nearly 1 percent,” Cohn said. “Once again, the clear culprit is coal. Mining employment is down 40 percent in just the past five years, with some parts of the state losing as many as 70 percent of their coal mining jobs.”
He also noted how the West Virginia Legislature passed a budget with higher education cuts, including 8 percent ($3.9 million) at Marshall University and more than 6 percent ($7.4 percent) at West Virginia University.
“Whether it provides a path for West Virginia out of the depths of our rankings remains to be seen,” Cohn wrote.
The legislative budget went into effect July 1 without the signature of Gov. Jim Justice.
“The West Virginia Legislature keeps twiddling their thumbs while our state continues to stay locked in an ‘economic death spiral,'” Justice said in a statement.
“I had a real plan, a drug epidemic solution, and a pathway to hope and prosperity. Our Legislature did nothing except pass terrible pain and despair on to the backs of the poor, the disabled, and our middle class. The entire world gets it. WHY DON’T THEY?”
The top-five ranked states are Washington, Georgia, Minnesota, Texas and North Carolina. Washington had 1621 points, around 72 percent higher than West Virginia’s score.