Sustained Outrage

wvastate.jpgEarlier this week, the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee released state-by-state snapshots of the economy. For West Virginia, it’s a classic good news, bad news situation.

First, the bad: In December 2009, unemployment reached 9.1 percent, a big jump from December 2008 (4.5 percent) and December 2007 (4.3 percent). The 2009 percentage translates to 72,000 West Virginians out of work.

“In West Virginia, employees in transportation and utilities, construction, and financial services faced the largest job losses (as a percent of employment within an industry) over the recession,” the release states.

But, and this is what qualifies as good news these days, it could be worse. Nationwide, unemployment was at 10.0 percent in December 2009, and job losses attributed to the recession were 5.2 percent. So, with 9.1 percent unemployment and 3.0 percent recession-driven job loss, West Virginia was below the national average.

And there are other encouraging figures in the snapshot. While inflation-adjusted total personal income dropped 2.4 percent nationally between the 4th quarter of 2007 and the 3rd quarter of 2009, in West Virginia, real per capita personal income is up, from $28,637.70 in 3rd quarter 2007 to $29,593.20 in 3rd quarter 2009.

Similarly, median household income in West Virginia increased from $37,307 in 2000 to $40,851 in 2008 while nationally it dropped from $52,532 to $51,233. (Granted, it’s problematic to be so far below the national average.)

Over the same period between 2000 and 2008, poverty decreased modestly in West Virginia, from 15.2 percent to 14.6 percent, while nationally it crept up from 11.6 percent to 12.9 percent. (Again, West Virginia’s numbers are alarmingly high, but at least they’re moving in the right direction.)

Meanwhile, the percentage of people without health insurance in West Virginia has remained stable,  with a tiny increase from 14.5 percent to 14.6 percent. The national figure has jumped, from 13.9 percent to 15.3 percent.