The United States has seen positive economic growth in recent years, but not every region has been affected equally. Communities in the Appalachian region, for example, have not seen employment growth matching the national trends and some counties, including the ones in Virginia, have even seen decreases in employment.
Although Appalachian employment tends to grow when the national employment is growing, it does so at a slower rate. According to a study by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), the region has seen steeper declines in employment than the national average during periods of recession and slower employment growth during recoveries.
"Good data yields good policy, and I am pleased our Research and Evaluation team has detailed the economic picture over a critical 15-year period of change and growth for Appalachia, when economic challenges have significantly impacted both the nation and our region specifically,“ ARC Federal Co-Chairman Tim Thomas said. “Understanding where we are seeing growth and in which sectors helps guide our investments toward a resilient and strong Appalachian economy.”
Among the key findings, the research found that employment growth between 2012 and 2017 was significantly lower than the national average. Employment in the country grew by about 9.6 percent in the time period, but Appalachian employment grew by less than half of that: only 4.7 percent.
Although the Appalachian counties in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina saw growth at a higher rate than the non-Appalachian counties in the state, counties in Kentucky, New York and Virginia all saw declines in employment. One of the driving factors of employment losses in Appalachian Virginia came from employment in coal gas and other mining industries, which saw a 38 percent decrease.