West Virginia Labor Market Activity Picked Up Slightly in December
The establishment survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that employment activity in West Virginia picked up slightly in December after 10 months of contraction. Despite the improvement, the West Virginia unemployment rate rose from 7.3 percent to 7.5 percent in December. The increased unemployment was accompanied by a 200-person expansion in the labor force.
After adjusting for seasonal factors, the establishment survey indicated that employers in West Virginia added a net 900 jobs (0.1 percent) in December, although the decline in November was revised downward by an additional 400 jobs, turning a 900-job loss into a 1,300-job loss for that month. With 10 straight months of decline in 2012, the rise in December did little to offset the 17,900 jobs that the West Virginia economy lost from February through November.
Three industries continued to see employment loss in December: mining and logging (100 jobs), trade, transportation, and utilities (800), and professional and business services (200). Two of these three industries also experienced a sizeable employment decline over the year. Mining and logging shed 5,000 jobs since December 2011, while trade, transportation, and utilities shed 3,500 jobs in the same period. The biggest absolute month-to-month gain was in the manufacturing sector that added 700 jobs — the first net increase that the industry has seen since March. Not surprisingly, the industry continued to contract (2,200 jobs) on a year-over-year basis.
It was not just the manufacturing, mining and logging, and trade, transportation, and utilities industries that shed jobs since December 2011. The year-over-year contraction was felt across most industries in West Virginia. The only private industries to gain jobs since December 2011 were education and health services (2,500 jobs) and leisure and hospitality (300). The government sector also reported a sizeable employment loss of 3,500 jobs over the year, although the decline was entirely in local government since federal and state government employment expanded slightly. Altogether, the West Virginia economy shed a net 13,900 jobs (1.8 percent) over the last 12 months.
Although the establishment survey reported a small job gain, the West Virginia unemployment rate rose 0.2 percentage point to 7.5 percent in December. This reflected an additional 1,092 unemployed workers in the state, although some of those workers could be from the 226 labor force entrants (or re-entrants) in December. The December unemployment rate was above the 4.1 percent mark at the beginning of the Great Recession, although it remained below the 7.8 percent rate in December 2011. The unemployment rate was also below the national unemployment rate of 7.8 percent in December 2012.
In sum, employment in West Virginia expanded slightly in December, although unemployment also rose and labor market conditions in the state remained soft.