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W.Va. economic forecast a mixed bag of issues

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Job growth is steady, if slow, unemployment is down and West Virginians are at their historically highest per capita income levels relative to the national average. But that doesn’t mean the state is out of the Great Recession woods just yet.

The state is also facing losing high-paying jobs in the southern coalfields, one of the lowest per capita incomes in the country, and a disengaged workforce, with only 54 percent of adults having jobs.

In other words, the state’s economic future is a combination of better news paired with issues state policymakers will have to address.

West Virginia University’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research presented the forecast at the Economic Outlook Conference held in Charleston on Thursday.

Dr. John Deskins, BBER’s director, said the state has other issues, including expected population loss, as well as an aging population and the fact that gross domestic product growth, which shot up in the last two years because of gas drilling in the Marcellus shale, is based exclusively in that industry.

And although jobs in the gas drilling industry have kept the state’s unemployment numbers in a fairly steady decline since 2011, those jobs have not compensated for the 5,000 jobs lost in the southern coalfields, Deskins said.

Only one in 20 jobs in the state is now in the mining industry, he said…

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