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Press Release

West Virginia is facing challenges in its employment landscape, according to Cleveland Fed analysis

In 2015, West Virginia’s overall employment fell 1.3 percent, in part because of the large (20.3 percent) decline in employment in the state’s hard-hit natural resources and mining industry. Despite the overall decline in employment, West Virginia’s unemployment rate decreased through 2015 and the first two quarters of 2016 (barring some short-lived fluctuations).

How can the unemployment rate be falling when employment growth is low? The answer most likely lies in West Virginia’s notable decline in population growth, resulting in a decrease in the size of the labor force, say the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland’s Cheryl Davis and Sydney Stone. “This downturn in population growth has been on a steady path since mid-2010, in large part because of both workers’ relocating to other states for better employment opportunities and an aging population,” say Davis and Stone, writing in Forefront, the Bank's showcase of policy ideas. The authors say educational attainment and social factors such as drug use also present challenges to the state’s employers.

Davis and Stone say the first two quarters of 2016 have shown a slight upward movement in the state’s labor force participation rate and a 1.1 percentage point decline in the unemployment rate from June 2015 to June 2016, the third largest decline in unemployment rates in the country for that time period. In addition, West Virginians have been pursuing higher education at an increased rate, with a four percentage point increase since 2013 of adults who hold either a two- or four-year college degree.

“We are hopeful that this positive momentum will continue into the next chapter of West Virginia’s employment story,” say Davis and Stone.

Read State of the State: West Virginia.

Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland

The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland is one of 12 regional Reserve Banks that along with the Board of Governors in Washington DC comprise the Federal Reserve System. Part of the US central bank, the Cleveland Fed participates in the formulation of our nation’s monetary policy, supervises banking organizations, provides payment and other services to financial institutions and to the US Treasury, and performs many activities that support Federal Reserve operations System-wide. In addition, the Bank supports the well-being of communities across the Fourth Federal Reserve District through a wide array of research, outreach, and educational activities.

The Cleveland Fed, with branches in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, serves an area that comprises Ohio, western Pennsylvania, eastern Kentucky, and the northern panhandle of West Virginia.

Media contact

Doug Campbell,, 513.218.1892