CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Director of West Virginia University’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research said West Virginia is in an economic recovery, but some parts of the state’s economy are doing much better than others.
Dr. John Deskins made a presentation to state lawmakers in Charleston Wednesday detailing the recovery. He said overall the state lost 94,000 job when the pandemic hit and today about 70,000 have been restored. That is solid progress, in Deskins’ mind, but he added, there are still 24,000 jobs which still need to be added back to move beyond pre-pandemic levels.
“Leisure and hospitality and some services that are close contact and indoor like child care haven’t come back,” Deskins explained on MetroNews Talkline. “Only a couple of sectors have completely recovered. Manufacturing has almost completely recovered and coal and gas have completely recovered as a total super-sector.”
John Deskins, Director of WVU’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, gave a presentation to the legislature this morning about West Virginia’s economy. Where is the state’s economy? He explains it all to @HoppyKercheval. WATCH: https://t.co/yCFQ3nDJuy pic.twitter.com/GqyWBWggZ2
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) October 13, 2021
Deskins said coal production had a long way to go to make up for its drop in 2020. Last year’s coal production in West Virginia dropped to levels not seen in the state since 1918. He said the only exceptions were a couple of outlier years when miners were on strike.
Although the long term outlook for coal wasn’t optimistic, Deskins said the near term for coal has been promising and he expected for the time being it will continue to be strong. Natural Gas also enjoyed a solid rebound from the pandemic as well and according to Deskins had a promising outlook for the future.
But, the biggest obstacle facing West Virginia remained workforce participation.
“West Virginia is still 50th among the states. This is the most important statistic we face. We have to get more of our people into the workforce and looking for jobs if we’re ever going to achieve the economic prosperity we hope for,” Deskins said.
The obstacles, according to Deskins, were poor education outcomes, poor health outcomes, and a bad drug abuse problem.
“We have to make progress on those really tough issue if we’re ever going to achieve the prosperity we’re hoping for,” he said.