Blog Posts > State of Working West Virginia 2023: The State of the Unemployed and Those Outside the Workforce
September 27, 2023

State of Working West Virginia 2023: The State of the Unemployed and Those Outside the Workforce

This report is the 16th edition of the State of Working West Virginia, an annual series that examines the state of West Virginia’s economy through the lens of its workers—the people who power our state and our economy. Previous editions have examined data on employment, income, racial disparities, job quality, and the past decade’s economic performance. While each year’s report has a slightly different focus, one consistent theme is the need to ask this simple question: what about the people who do the work? This issue is an in-depth look at one specific economic measure – West Virginia’s unemployment rate and those who are unemployed.

Who is counted as unemployed can sometimes be a confusing question. Is it simply those who are not working? Is it those who are receiving unemployment insurance benefits? Is it those who have been laid off?

Key Findings

  • On average, unemployed workers are younger and less educated than employed workers.
  • Unemployed workers are more likely to be men than women. Men face higher unemployment rates than women.
  • Black West Virginians face higher unemployment rates than white West Virginians. West Virginians of two or more races face the highest unemployment rates.
  • Over half of unemployed West Virginians are either laid off or new entrants to the workforce.
  • 96 percent of those not in the labor force are retired, disabled, in school, or taking care of home. Only 4.2 percent are not in the labor force for some other reason.
  • Weekly unemployment benefits in West Virgina are below the national average.
  • With a balance of $423 million, West Virginia’s unemployment trust fund is healthy and at an historic high.
  • The unemployment insurance system has failed to adapt to a changing economy, leaving out gig workers, independent contractors, the self-employed, and other workers that are growing more prevalent in the 21st century.
  • Many of the federal government’s temporary pandemic reforms to the unemployment system addressed many of its shortcomings and helped lead to a fast economic recovery.
  • Permanently enacting some of those reforms and avoiding proposed damaging reforms would strengthen both the unemployment insurance system and the state’s economy.

Read the full State of Working West Virginia report here.

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