By JIM McCONVILLE
MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Jefferson County posted the lowest unemployment rate in West Virginia for September at 2.8 percent, according to figures released by Workforce West Virginia on Tuesday.
The state’s overall seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 5.1 percent in September compared to 5.0 percent in August and 5.9 percent in September 2016.
Nationally, unemployment decreased to 4.2 percent for the month compared to 4.4 percent in August and 4.9 in September 2016. Alaska posted the highest unemployment rate at 7.2 percent, while North Dakota scored the lowest at 2.4 percent for the month.
The good news for West Virginia: Unemployment rates decreased in every county. Pendleton County posted the second lowest unemployment rate for month at 3 percent, according to WFWV figures.
Adjoining Eastern Panhandle counties Berkeley and Morgan counties posted unemployment rates of 3.4 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively.
Mingo and McDowell counties posted the highest unemployment rates for the month at 8.2 and 7.8 percent.
A WFWV spokesperson attributed lower than average unemployment rates in counties in the Eastern Panhandle to the area’s diverse economy and growing population.
“Jefferson is the only county in the state within the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria Metropolitan Statistical Area,” said Samantha Smith, spokesperson for the WFWV. “Its location to a multi-state area provides ample opportunities for employment. Civilian labor force/total employment/total unemployment data are resident based, so this means many Jefferson County residents may not be working within the county, but in other West Virginia counties, another state, or in DC.”
Jefferson County’s civilian labor force increased by 620 workers to reach 28,810 workers overall compared to the same period last year, according to WFWV. Berkeley County added 270 jobs to 53,180 and Morgan County added 20 jobs to 7,430 workers.
Sperlings Best Places –a national website which ranks geographic areas based on a variety of demographic and economic factors, including education, cost of living, median salary and employment– predicts Jefferson County job growth will increase 42.6 percent over the next 10 years.
Mingo and McDowell counties– located in the southernmost corner of West Virginia — recorded the state’s highest unemployment rates, in part, to their economic ties to the coal industry, said WFWV’s Smith.
“The coal industry has been a significant employer in both Mingo and McDowell counties, but coal mining employment has fallen considerably in recent years,” Smith said. “These two counties are located in a more geographically isolated area of the state, have declining populations, a less developed infrastructure and low labor force participation rates. Their economies are heavily dependent on coal mining.”
Overall, the number of unemployed residents in West Virginia increased by700 workers to 39,900 in September. However, year-to-date, total state unemployment is down 6,600 residents, according to WFWV figures.
“Unemployment rates in West Virginia have been consistently lower in 2017 than in 2016,” Smith said. “Along with the decline in unemployment rates, we have seen a decline in the civilian labor force as well. This may be attributed to, among other things, population loss, retirees leaving the workforce, and discouraged workers temporarily giving up on seeking employment. Total employment numbers are up over the year.”
Total non-farm payroll employment in West Virginia increased 900 workers in the month, with gains of of 200 in the goods producing sector and 700 in service sector jobs.
Since September 2016, total non-farm payroll employment has increased by 3,000 workers, according to WFWV figures. Employment gains included included 3,100 in mining and logging, 900 in construction, 200 in financial services, 100 in professional and business services, 3,400 in educational and health services, 400 in leisure and hospitality and 100 in government.
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