Economy: Job numbers show need for diversity

Economies across the country have received one wallop after another in recent years. Just as hope was springing that the worst of the financial challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic might be easing, the shadows of recession began to loom. But some states are having a harder time of it than others.

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

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics analyses suggest the percentage of jobs open in a state decreases as economic growth and population density increase, among other factors.

But in West Virginia, the unemployment rate is only 3.7 percent. Also according to the BLS, the number of unemployed people here in March 2022 was 29,000. Even if every one of those people was qualified for and immediately hired to fill the open positions, there would still be a shortage of 27,000 workers.

What gives? Well, for starters, West Virginia’s economy continues to fail to grow and diversify as it should; and we are still losing population. Meanwhile, not every person willing to work fulfills all the requirements for the jobs that are open. Such circumstances can create a bit of a vicious cycle.

Lawmakers who received the support of voters Tuesday (some of whom must still go on to win their seats in the general election in November) must understand what is necessary to lift West Virginians is working toward expanding our economy; making sure our children receive the education they need to succeed (that means not tilting at windmills on missions to teach our children less and protect a horrifically outdated status quo); and helping our state thrive in a way that attracts and retains residents, rather than driving away our best and brightest.

The alternative is a downward spiral on which no elected official who has lived through it should wish to send us again.


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