WELCH, W.Va. — For the first time in 116 years, the population of McDowell County is below 20,000.
U.S. Census figures released Thursday show the 2015 population estimate for McDowell County at 19,835, the lowest since 1900, when it stood at almost 19,000. In 2010, the population was 22,075.
The coal boom that spurred growth began just after 1900, and by 1910, the county’s population was about 48,000.
The county’s population peaked in 1950 at about 100,000, and started seeing a gradual decline as the coal industry slowed.
Population figures saw the largest decline, almost 30 percent, between 1980 and 1990, when it dropped from 49,899 to 35,233.
This drop fit a national trend of the number of jobs in the coal industry.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of coal mining jobs in the country declined from about 175,000 in the early 1980s to about 80,000 in 2014…