Economy Beginning to Shine in a 'Reviving' West Virginia

By William K. Stevens, N. Y. Times News Service | THE JOURNAL RECORD, July 15, 1986 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Economy Beginning to Shine in a 'Reviving' West Virginia


William K. Stevens, N. Y. Times News Service, THE JOURNAL RECORD


By William K. Stevens CHARLESTON, W.Va. - In decades past, West Virginians pointed to the gilded dome of their State Capitol as a symbol of the cons iderable pride they have always taken in their state.

But as the coal economy crumbled over the years and the state's pride with it, the gold leaf peeled off the dome. Gov. Arch A. Moore Jr. has long wanted to regild it but has resisted because of howthat might look in a state whose unemployment rate led the nation.

Now, at last, Moore has ordered new gold leaf. He decided to ""go for the gold'' because West Virginia's unemployment rate, for the first time since 1982, is not the country's highest and is dropping.

That is the best economic news the state has had in a long time. The change has come in part because Louisiana is suffering from the collapse in oil prices and is now No. 1. However, the drop in West Virginia's unemployment rate has been not just relative but real, substantial and steady, statistics show.

The reason, economists and officials say, is twofold. Since 1980 thousands of unemployed workers have fled the shrinking manufacturing and coal industries that once formed West Virginia's economic base. They have been forced to do so because coal and manufacturing have undergone yet another contraction, perhaps a final one.

Leaner and more stable than before, those industries are nevertheless shadows of their former selves when it comes to providing jobs. Many of the workers squeezed out by this latest contraction have left the state. Others retired.

At the same time, the service sector of the economy is growing significantly, creating new jobs for those who remain in the state's reduced work force. Employment in service occupations grew 6 percent in 1985, and state officials hope that is a foretaste of things to come.

What this signifies, say the experts, is that the West Virginia economy, like that of the Northeast, has undergone a fundamental, even historic shift in character. The 1980's, they say, has been a period of painful readjustment to the contraction in mining and manufacturing. They believe that the worst is over and that the future lies in activities ranging from tourism to health care to research to high technology.

The state has barely embarked on that postindustrial road, however. Despite the dropping unemployment rate, it is still in double digits: 13.1 percent in February and 11.7 percent in March. In contrast, the national unemployment rate was 7.8 percent in February and 7.5 percent in March.

""We were floored - now we're up, but groggy,'' says Ralph Halstead, an official of the State Department of Employment security who is highly regarded as an economic analyst.

Still, there is tentative new hope in the state, matching the fresh, green look of spring that envelops the hills enclosing this valley capital.

Louisiana surpassed West Virginia in February as the state with the highest unemployment rate, 13.2 percent, according to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Although the crash in oil prices is cited as one reason Louisiana surged to the front, the West Virginia improvement is real in its own terms. In the 13 months through March 1986 its rate dropped by 5.3 percentage points, from a high of 17 percent. Moore expects the rate to drop to third- or fourth-highest in the country when comparative federal statistics are released May 13.

The number of unemployed workers has declined by 9,500 over the last year, according to Dr. William Miernyk, an economist at West Virginia University. A little more than half the decline, he said, can be attributed to an increase of 4,800 jobs statewide, the rest to a further loss of 4,700 workers from the work force, through retirement, disability and migration from the state.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Economy Beginning to Shine in a 'Reviving' West Virginia
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?