West Virginia September unemployment figures were revealed with the usual fanfare and setbacks late last month as officials were excited to announce that unemployment was 4.6% – below the national average and its lowest level since 14 Years.
Wonderful. Certainly, efforts to reopen our economies and help businesses get back on their feet amid a pandemic have to do with that percentage.
“West Virginia is moving in the right direction by helping employers and ensuring we have good workers and well-paying jobs,” said Scott Adkins, acting commissioner of WorkForce West Virginia.
Possibly. But there are worrying numbers. The state’s activity rate is still the lowest in the country – a pitiful 55.2% in August. That means that 44.8% of the working-age population in our state … doesn’t.
Traditional explanations for low participation rates include those who have given up looking for work and aging workers. West Virginia has a lot of both. In the meantime, we cannot ignore the reality that private employers who have found that they can do their jobs with fewer workers are not going to nibble on increasing the number of jobs available anytime soon. Those jobs are probably gone forever. Knowing this, we have to bear in mind that some of our workforce has moved elsewhere in recent years.
We are not going to get these people back or attract new workers without a major change in attitudes from the elected officials to the elected officials, who believe the best way to stay in office is to look at our economic past .
Yes, September unemployment is good news. But to pretend that the massive challenges facing our country’s economy have been resolved is a mistake. We still have a lot to do.
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