An editorial from the Parkersburg News and Sentinel
PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — West Virginians who cannot shake the suspicion that the recovery reportedly being experienced in the rest of the country has left them behind have more good reason to be concerned. A report in the 2017 West Virginia Manufacturers Register concludes that, in fact, things are getting a little worse in the Mountain State.
From August 2015 to August 2016, West Virginia lost 3,243 industrial jobs — more than in any year since the recession. It will surprise no one that job loss was greatest in the coal industry — 1,861, or 21 percent of jobs, lost in 12 months. What may surprise some is the war on coal and affordable electricity finally managing to knock coal out of its spot as the Mountain State’s top industrial employer. That title now rests with the chemical manufacturing industry.
But coal is not even second, anymore. Industrial machinery takes that spot, despite having lost 7 percent of its jobs last year. Coal now ranks third.
Policymakers are at least partially to blame for the state’s hampered ability to make up for those losses, as the president of Manufacturers’ News, which published the report, cited “tight regulations” as one of the factors making it difficult “for other sectors to offset those losses.”
It is truly a case of West Virginia’s industrial workers being kicked while they are down.
But the lesson is an important one: while lawmakers and government officials fight against federal assaults on our industrial employment base, they must get out of the way of the employers who could make a big difference to our economy’s transition, if we would only let them.