CHARLOTTESVILLE, V.A. (WVIR) - Employment and income in Virginia’s Appalachian counties lags behind the rest of the commonwealth, and even Appalachian regions in other states. The new data comes as Virginia’s unemployment rate fell to just 2.6%.
A new report from the Appalachian Regional Commission released this week stated that employment in the state’s Appalachian counties fell by 0.8% from 2012 to 2017. Employment in the rest of the state increased by 7.1%.
Income in those areas also lags behind the rest of the commonwealth and the country. Earnings in Appalachian counties fell by 1.6%, compared to an increase of 0.3% in other parts of Virginia. Income is almost $20,000 lower in Appalachian regions when compared to their non-Appalachian neighbors.
Analysts say that the difference is largely due to population changes in those areas.
“A lot of those areas of southwestern Virginia, the proportion of the population is over the age of 65 has increased dramatically in the past 10 years," Spencer Shanholtz, a research and policy analyst at UVA’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, said. "It’s going to continue to do so.”
The increase in the senior population means fewer people in the workforce. That contributes to both lower employment figures and income.
“There’s just not as many young people of working age to fill those jobs that were previously there," Shanholtz said. "Regardless of economic conditions, which are poor, there’s just less people of working age. So naturally the share of, you know, and it’s going to be going down.”
A changing economic landscape also played a major role. Data in the report reveals that employment in the mining sector fell by more than 37% from 2012 to 2017.