According to a news release from the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the seasonally adjusted average of employment for 2019 was 759,000.
That’s the highest employment since 2008 — when coal production was at its all-time high, according to the release.
“The impressive data proves that West Virginia is now creating jobs. The economic policies that have been implemented to improve West Virginia are working,” Chamber President Steve Roberts said.
The average employment rate represents a net increase of 16,800 compared to 2018’s number. Additionally, the Civilian Labor Force is 797,800, which is a net gain of 14,500 from the previous year’s annual average.
The numbers were also praised by Gov. Jim Justice.
“What this all boils down to is that we just had our best year of job numbers in West Virginia in more than a decade. Period,” Justice said. “This is something that all West Virginians should be proud of.”
According to a release from the governor’s office, the end of 2019 saw significant employment milestones. October saw the highest single-month employment total in over a decade, with 763,000. That number was then eclipsed by December’s total of 765,500.
Additionally, August saw an unemployment rate of just 4.8% — the lowest seen since 2008.
“These incredible numbers are more evidence of what myself and a lot of others have been saying for over a year now: that West Virginia is truly experiencing a comeback story the likes of which we’ve never seen before,” Justice said.
Roberts added that the data is especially impressive considering work stoppages currently in place on pipeline projects in the state.
“It is encouraging to see employment gains in spite of the halt of construction work on natural gas pipelines,” he said. “The much-needed diversification of West Virginia’s economy continues. The resumption of construction work on these pipelines would further boost West Virginia’s economic standing.”
The Chamber is carefully monitoring a subset of the data, called total non-farm, which is sector-specific and does not account for all employment. It also notes challenges in the construction and mining industries continue to pull-down job creation.
“The reasons for optimism are clear. West Virginians must proceed into the new decade of the 21st century with as much positivity as this report shows,” Roberts said. “The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce will continue to be the leading advocate for economic development and job creation and will work to maintain a pro-jobs climate in West Virginia.”