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How Appalachia's employment growth doing?

Hank Hayes • Nov 18, 2019 at 8:00 AM

While post-Recession employment growth has been positive in Appalachia, it lags behind the growth experienced by the country as a whole, according to a report released by the Appalachian Regional Commission.

Drawing on data from 15 industry sectors, the report catalogs the region’s industrial makeup and primarily focuses on the period from 2002–2017 — the years immediately before, during and after the Great Recession — and finds that employment growth varies across the region.

The report also finds an overall employment shift across the region toward professional and technical services, health and social services and tourism-related jobs.

“Good data yields good policy, and I am pleased our Research and Evaluation team has detailed the economic picture over a critical 15-year period of change and growth for Appalachia, when economic challenges have significantly impacted both the nation and our Region specifically,” said Commission Federal Co-Chairman Tim Thomas. “Understanding where we are seeing growth and in which sectors helps guide our investments toward a resilient and strong Appalachian economy.”

Among the report’s key findings:

•From 2012 to 2017, employment across all industries in Appalachia grew 4.7 percent. Growth was positive, yet lagged behind the country as a whole which grew 9.6 percent during the same time period.

• From 2012 to 2017, the fastest growth in employment occurred in Appalachia’s South Central and Southern sub regions, at 6.6 percent and 10.4 percent, respectively.

• Appalachian counties in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina saw faster growth in employment than in the states’ respective non-Appalachian counties.

• Appalachian counties in Kentucky, New York and Virginia all experienced declines in employment, compared to the positive employment growth that took place in these states’ non-Appalachian counties. In both Appalachian Kentucky and Appalachian Virginia, employment in the coal, gas and other mining industry experienced large declines from 2012 to 2017: 37 percent and 38 percent, respectively.

• In 2017, the five industries with the largest employment shares in the region were professional and technical services (12.1 percent), health and social services (11.6 percent), retail and trade (11.1 percent); state and local government (11.1 percent); and manufacturing (10 percent).

• In 2017, 10 percent of Appalachia’s total employment was in the manufacturing industry, a larger share than the country as a whole (6.8 percent).

• In 2017, 11.6 percent of Appalachia’s total employment was in the health and social services sector, compared with 11.3 percent for the United States as a whole. Additionally, 9.2 percent of the region’s employment belonged to the food, lodging and entertainment industry, comparable to the 9.8 percent found at the national level.

Together, finance, insurance and real estate; food, lodging and entertainment; health and social services; manufacturing; professional and technical services; retail trade; state and local government; and wholesale trade and transportation make up roughly 75 percent of the region’s employment share.

The Appalachian Region, as defined in the Appalachian Regional Commission’s authorizing legislation, is a 205,000-square-mile region that follows the spine of the Appalachian Mountains from southern New York to northern Mississippi. It includes all of West Virginia and parts of 12 other states: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. Forty-two percent of the region’s population is rural compared with 20 percent of the national population.

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