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Economies across the country have taken hit after hit in recent years. Just as hopes rose that the worst financial challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic might be easing, the shadows of a recession began to loom. But some states have it harder than others.

According to a report by Commodity.com, West Virginia is in an unusual position among those in an unusual position with the 15th highest rate of job openings in the country. For the fourth quarter of 2021, Mountain State had a job opening rate of 7.47 percent, compared to a national average of 6.97 percent. There are an average of 56,000 job offers here every month.

Analysis by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that the percentage of job vacancies in a state is decreasing as economic growth and population density increase, among other things.

But in West Virginia, the unemployment rate is just 3.7 percent. According to the BLS, the number of unemployed here in March 2022 was 29,000. Even if all of these people were qualified for the vacancies and hired immediately, there would still be a 27,000 workforce shortage.

What gives? Well, first of all, West Virginia’s economy continues to fail to grow and diversify as it should; and we’re still losing population. In the meantime, not everyone who is willing to work meets all the requirements for the advertised positions. Such circumstances can create a small vicious circle.

Lawmakers who garnered the support of voters Tuesday (some of whom have yet to win their seats in November’s general election) need to understand what it takes to uplift West Virginians working to expand our economy; ensuring our children get the education they need to succeed (that means not fighting windmills on missions to teach our children less and protect a horribly outdated status quo); and to help our state thrive in ways that attract and retain residents, rather than driving out our best and brightest.

The alternative is a downward spiral that no elected official who has experienced would want to send us down again.

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