Need A Job? Try Appalachia!

Appalachia, long known as one of the poorest parts of the U.S. with chronically high unemployment, finds itself in the enviable position of enjoying remarkably low unemployment due to unwavering demand for its main natural resource – coal.
November 28, 2008, 9am PST | Irvin Dawid
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"Mining is one of only two areas of the private sector that added jobs in October -- the other was health care. While 7,000 new mining jobs are hardly enough to register in a national economy that shed 240,000 jobs last month, they make a difference in parts of the country like Appalachia that have historically felt the deepest pain during recessions.

Unemployment in West Virginia, the second-biggest coal-producing state behind Wyoming, was 4.7% in October, compared with 6.5% nationally.

The use of coal, which generates more than half the nation's electricity, tends to remain fairly constant even when economic activity slows."

"Electricity demand never really changes," said Paul Forward, an analyst with Stifel, Nicolaus. He expects utilities' demand for coal to be down 1% this year and up 0.7% next year."

"I don't think West Virginia is going to avoid the national downturn altogether, but we're in better shape" than many other states, said George Hammond, an economist at West Virginia University."

From "Surprise Drop in Power Use Delivers Jolt to Utilities":
While coal will undoubtedly remain in strong demand, "an unexpected drop in U.S. electricity consumption has utility companies worried that the trend isn't a byproduct of the economic downturn. Utilities have long counted on sales growth of 1% to 2% annually in the U.S." but they may need to rethink their expansion plans.

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Published on Saturday, November 22, 2008 in The Wall Street Journal
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