(The Center Square) – West Virginia’s unemployment rate dropped for the sixth consecutive month, decreasing by more than two full percentage points and standing at 6.4% in October.
The state’s workforce increased by 8,100 workers from September, and the total number of unemployed West Virginians decreased by 18,100, reaching 48,800. Nonfarm employment increased by 1,000 people, with a 1,600-worker increase in goods producing jobs and a 600-worker decrease in service jobs.
“Before the pandemic hit, we were churning out the best unemployment rates and total job numbers that West Virginia had seen in over a decade,” Gov. Jim Justice said in a statement. “There’s no doubt that the pandemic was like a cannonball to the stomach. But I’m encouraged to see that, month after month, our job numbers continue to improve and are trending back toward where they were before. But we won’t stop there, we want to continue to get better and better.”
In the goods producing sector, the largest increase came in construction jobs, with 1,100 new workers, and another increase came in manufacturing jobs, which saw a 500-job increase. In mining and logging, the job numbers remained unchanged. In the service providing sector, professional and business services increased by 800 workers, leisure and hospitality increased by 400 workers and the “other” category increased by 400 workers.
Employment declined by 1,000 jobs in government, 800 in education and health services and 400 in financial activities. In information and trade, transportation and utilities, employment remained unchanged.
Over the past 12 months, total nonfarm employment decreased by 47,000 workers. Every category, with the exception of manufacturing, saw a reduction.
“We know that there are still people out there who are hurting,” Justice said. “For anyone who is out there having lost their job or looking for new employment because of this pandemic, please know that we haven’t forgotten about you, and we’re trying with all in us to find more ways to help.”
Garrett Ballengee, the executive director of the free-market Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy, told The Center Square the continued trend in unemployment is an encouraging sign as businesses are more willing and able to hire, but there’s still a lot of work to do.
“The state still has a way to go to reach West Virginia's pre-COVID unemployment rate, which was under 5 percent, but we are certainly trending in the right direction,” Ballengee said. “It's also important to keep an eye on West Virginia's labor force participation rate. The state has perpetually been last in the nation in that statistic, but we are seeing positive trends on that measurement, as well. Hopefully, with the news regarding a vaccine becoming available in the next few months, West Virginia's economy will really start picking up again in the Spring.”
From September to October, the national unemployment rate decreased to 6.9%.