By Jessica Borders
Times West Virginian
Experts are encouraged by the positive movement related to unemployment in West Virginia and expect to see continued progress in the future.
The Labor Market Information unit of WorkForce West Virginia’s Research, Information and Analysis Division recently published labor force estimates for the state for February 2013.
The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate went down slightly — 0.1 percent — from the previous month. The rate dropped from 7.4 percent in January to 7.3 percent in February.
West Virginia experienced a decrease of 1,400 unemployed residents, with total unemployment going from 60,200 to 58,800. Total employment saw growth of 1,000, going from 749,300 in January to 750,300 in February. It was up 4,200 from the February 2012 rate of 746,100.
The not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate also decreased by 0.2 percent, going from 8.3 percent to 8.1 percent during that time frame.
“Although the unemployment rates, both seasonally adjusted and not seasonally adjusted, changed little in February, there was a noticeable jump in mining employment as well as seasonal growth in educational services,” said Joe Jarvis, employment programs specialist with WorkForce West Virginia.
WorkForce West Virginia’s latest report shows that the total nonfarm payroll employment rose 2,800 from January to February, representing an increase of 1,600 jobs in the goods-producing sector and 1,200 jobs in the service-providing sector. Jarvis said employment in mining, construction and government played the biggest part in this growth.
Total nonfarm payroll employment went up by 1,100 compared to February of last year, showing a gain of 3,000 jobs in the service-providing sector and a loss of 1,900 jobs in the goods-producing sector. Educational and health services as well as leisure and hospitality were the major contributors to this increase in employment, Jarvis said.
“The one sector that has led to the decline in West Virginia’s unemployment rate is the construction industry, whose average monthly employment growth has exceeded 2 percent for the past year,” said Dr. Amy Godfrey, assistant professor of economics at Fairmont State University. “The education and health services industry has also increased monthly in the state leading to a decline in the total unemployment level.”
Dr. Paul Speaker, associate professor of finance and adjunct associate professor of economics with the West Virginia University College of Business and Economics’ Bureau of Business and Economic Research, added that the state economy has particularly seen great strides in health care and education, which have been pretty consistent areas. Also, the state is starting to see some very positive movement on the construction side and increased activity in manufacturing as well.
“I think mostly what we’re seeing is more the effect of what’s going on nationally,” he said. “We are tending to see some things picking up in the economy.”
While this growth isn’t terribly dramatic yet, Speaker said he’s happy to see any movement in the positive direction.
The state will experience some improvements in the next year, he said. At the end of this year or early next year, West Virginia should see the pace of the labor force pick up and activity that is a little bit stronger.
“The year 2012 was the first time since early in 2009 that West Virginia has seen unemployment rates below 7 percent,” Jarvis said. “This occurred four times last year. We should certainly see more of that in 2013 as the economy continues to slowly improve.”
The unemployment rate actually went up 0.3 percent compared to February 2012, when it was 7 percent. In addition, total unemployment increased 2,700 from February 2012, when the number was 56,100.
“Over the year, West Virginia has seen large losses in both manufacturing and in other services,” Jarvis said. “Also, the civilian labor force has grown, indicating more people have entered the workforce and are actively seeking employment.”
The not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate stayed at 8.1 percent over the year.
The seasonally adjusted national unemployment rate was 7.7 percent in February, down from 7.9 percent in January and 8.3 percent last February. Looking at the not seasonally adjusted numbers, the unemployment rate for the United States was 8.1 percent this February, 8.5 percent in January and 8.7 percent in February 2012.
“West Virginia’s unemployment rate is beginning to decline while remaining below the national unemployment rate,” Godfrey said. “The state’s unemployment rate has remained below the national average throughout the recession and recovery.”
She expects to see this trend repeat itself for West Virginia.
“The unemployment rate for the state is expected to continue to decline back to the pre-recession level. However, this decline will be a slow one,” Godfrey said. “West Virginia’s unemployment rate will continue to remain below the national average as the economy recovers with future growth occurring in the professional and business services industry through 2016.”
WorkForce West Virginia also released Labor Market Information by West Virginia County for February 2013. A county emphasis map shows whether county unemployment rates have risen, fallen or remained the same compared to January.
Thirty-five of the counties in the state experienced a decrease in their unemployment rates from January to February of this year, while 15 counties saw growing rates. The rates did not change in Cabell, Doddridge, Mercer, Pleasants and Randolph counties.
“The unemployment rates of the counties, like that of the state, typically increase during winter months,” Jarvis said.
In January 2013 and December 2012, for example, only two counties experienced declining unemployment rates.
The counties that had unemployment rates below 6 percent were Jefferson and Monongalia. Clay, Webster, Calhoun, Wirt, Roane, Grant and Mason counties were the counties with unemployment rates greater than 12 percent.
Marion County’s unemployment rate — not seasonally adjusted — was 6.7 percent in February, which was also the county’s rate the previous February. The current number shows a drop from the rate of 7.1 percent in January 2013, but an increase from the rate of 6.3 percent in December 2012, Jarvis said.
Email Jessica Borders at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.