CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Every county in West Virginia showed an increase in unemployment in April because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to county-by-county jobless numbers released by WorkForce West Virginia.
Nearly 10,000 Kanawha County residents filed new unemployment claims taking the state’s most populous county’s rate from 5.5 percent in March to 17.8 percent in April. WorkForce West Virginia said there were 14,420 Kanawha County residents unemployed when the numbers were calculated in mid-April.
MORE see interactive map here of county joblessness
Mingo County had the highest jobless rate for the month at 24.7 percent.. Right behind Mingo County in order were Calhoun, Logan, Nicholas, and Hancock counties. All five had an unemployment rates above 20 percent.
The figures, while startling, were to be expected as the state’s economy shutdown in March. Employees were laid off or furloughed by the thousands.
“It’s devastating and it’s directly related to the governmental shutdown due to the Covid virus,” said Mingo County Commissioner Greg “Hootie” Smith told MetroNews Thursday.
Job losses came in every sector of the county’s workforce, but Smith said the impact to mining in the region was probably the biggest big factor.
“There have been several mines and operations that have been closed down during to the virus and it’s a rippling effect,” he said.
Mining is a significant portion of the Mingo County economy, but the other growing part of the area’s economy is tourism. Tourism took a hit as well when the Hatfield McCoy Trails closed down. Smith said what happened when the trails reopened gives him faith a rebound is coming.
“When the trails opened back up for Memorial Day weekend, the crowds were astronomical. That is a double-edged sword though as you’re trying to battle and control the curve of the virus.”
The state’s lowest unemployment rate for April was Pendleton County at 8.7 percent. Hampshire County’s jobless rate, according to Workforce West Virginia, was 9.9 percent. Those are the only counties in West Virginia with an unemployment rate under 10 percent.
The state’s unemployment rate for the month was 15.8 percent but most experts believe that number now to be the 20 to 22 percent range. More than 200,000 residents have filed for unemployment since mid-March.