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For coalfield counties, jobless rates remain high as statewide total dips

While West Virginia's unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level since November 2008, some West Virginia counties, especially in the coalfields, are still seeing high jobless numbers. (WCHS/WVAH)

While West Virginia's unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level since November 2008, some West Virginia counties, especially in the coalfields, are still seeing high jobless numbers.

Jobless numbers in the state for March dropped three-tenths of a percentage point to 4.9 percent, according to WorkForce West Virginia. The number of unemployed residents fell by 2,300 to 38,100. At this time last year, the state's unemployment rate stood at 6.2 percent, according to a report by Eyewitness News' newspaper partner The Logan Banner.

In the state's coalfields, county unemployment rates remain high, with some topping 10 percent. Mingo County's unemployment rate was 10.3 percent, with 220 jobs lost between February 2016 and 2017. McDowell County had a 10.2 percent unemployment rate.

Logan County's unemployment currently stands at 8.4 percent. Other high employment rates included Lincoln County (8.2 percent), Wyoming County (8 percent) and Boone County (7 percent).

In August 2016, economists at West Virginia University said five of those counties (Boone, Logan, Mingo, McDowell and Wyoming) were in a great depression. The other county in a depression was Clay, the economists said.

Some in the region are cautiously optimistic about the return of the coal industry in the state, following President Donald Trump's executive order designed to roll back many of former President Barack Obama's efforts to curb global warming. Supporters of the order, signed last month, are hoping to spur American energy jobs.

March employment gains in West Virginia included only 100 jobs in mining and logging. Gains of 300 jobs were made in both the construction and leisure fields.

Jefferson County, in the Eastern Panhandle, had the lowest county unemployment rate in the state, at 3.4 percent. The state's highest unemployment rate was Calhoun County, with 13.4 percent unemployed.


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