West Virginia’s labor participation rate returns to pre-Pandemic level


In honor of Labor Day, WVVA News is digging deeper into the state of West Virginia’s workforce.
In honor of Labor Day, WVVA News is digging deeper into the state of West Virginia’s workforce.(U.S. Bureau for Labor Statistics)
Published: Sep. 5, 2022 at 4:48 PM EDT
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BECKLEY, W.Va. (WVVA) - In honor of Labor Day, WVVA News is digging deeper into the state of West Virginia’s workforce.

Last Spring, the Mountain State reported its lowest unemployment rate in history. It was around the same time, in April, that the U.S. recorded its lowest rate since the 1960s. While it is no secret that inflation may be driving more people back to work, the unemployment rate only tells part of the story.

In August 2022, West Virginia hit another benchmark when the Labor Participation Rate finally returned to its pre-Pandemic levels, according to the U.S. Bureau for Labor and Statistics. That’s the number of people who are either working or actively seeking work versus the number of people who have dropped out of the search.

Despite the increase in labor participation, West Virginia’s rate at 55 percent is still seven percent below the national average, with many locals blaming the deficit on the loss of coal jobs and national energy policies.

“We need to get more jobs in energy coal and stuff like that,” said Michael Moore of Beckley.

Many companies and business are still reporting worker shortages despite the record-setting unemployment rates. While some are raising wages to get workers, others are dropping out of the search. Michael Moore of Beckley said he closed his construction business after challenges recruiting workers.

“I don’t blame people for wanting higher wages. But they’ve gone outrageous on their wages. Everybody is wanting something for nothing.”

While money may not go as far as it used to due to inflation, the latest data does show one thing -- more people are returning to work to get it.