Charleston Gazette-Mail, Beckley Register-Herald – Legislators have been told that West Virginia’s economic recovery has been strong. The inference is that normality is around the corner and almost back. The serious question is whether “back to normal” is adequate. Read the full op-ed.
There are several matters of concern. First, there is the workforce participation rate. Economist John Deskins, at West Virginia University, said the state ranked last nationally in 2020, at 55%. Few would argue that this has changed significantly. Basically, the lower unemployment rate has become extremely misleading, since a huge number of West Virginians are not employable for several reasons, a main one being the high rate of substance abuse. Reviews of county judge dockets reveal that caseloads are jammed with “possession/intent to deliver” charges. Consequently, most potential workers do not even bother going to unemployment offices.
Another reason is education. In West Virginia, 25% of the population does not have a high school education. The pandemic slide and absenteeism caused major damage to educational attainment, as aptly noted by Hoppy Kercheval in a recent op-ed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
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