The State Journal – Ted Boettner, director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, said the data is not necessarily a harbinger of further declines in coal mining jobs. The Energy Information Administration, he points out, does predict a decline in coal production, but another factor is involved. Read
“I think the jury is still out whether this is a structural decline in coal employment or whether it’s more reflective of the boom and bust nature of the industry,” Boettner said. “In the long run, there’s going to be a large decline in coal production, but at the same time there’s going to be a large decrease in productivity.”
A decrease in productivity means more miners to bring out the same amount of coal, though that also increases the cost of that coal.
Boettner said 2012 “was a terrible year for West Virginia in terms of job growth. Whether or not the drop in fourth quarter coal mine employment is a sign of the future or part of a short-term trend, he said, would remain to be seen.