Blog Posts > Tracking the Coronavirus Economic Impact in West Virginia
April 27, 2020

Tracking the Coronavirus Economic Impact in West Virginia

Social distancing, closing of nonessential businesses, and stay at home orders have all helped protect lives in West Virginia. But they have also led to record job losses and increasing hardship as people struggle to make ends meet. The restrictions on economic activity that are currently protecting us will eventually be lifted, but the economy may still under-perform if the policy response is not strong enough.

This page tracks important state-level indicators of how West Virginia’s economy is performing. It will be updated throughout the crisis as new data becomes available.

Employment in West Virginia

  • Total nonfarm employment in West Virginia, April 2020: 619,400
  • Percent change from previous month: -12.7%

The following chart tracks the monthly change in nonfarm employment in West Virginia from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics estimates. Many non essential businesses were ordered to close during the state of emergency in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, and many other businesses have laid off and furloughed workers due to decreased demand. Changes in total employment will help reflect the ongoing crisis in the labor market — and will show when West Virginians eventually begin going back to work.

Source: WVCBP analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics data

Unemployment Insurance

  • Initial claims for unemployment insurance for the week ending May 23: 4,762
  • Total initial claims for unemployment insurance since the week ending March 21: 153,150
  • Total continued claims for unemployment insurance for the week ending May 16: 102,112

New unemployment insurance (UI) claims are an early indicator of how many are losing their jobs because of the economic impact of the coronavirus. However, the system is struggling to handle the dramatic increase in claims, and the state is working through a backlog of tens of thousands of claims, meaning the full number of West Virginians who have lost their jobs is not yet accurately measured.

The chart below tracks the number of initial unemployment claims in West Virginia by week.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor

Another way to look at the unprecedented unemployment data is continued claims. While initial claims measures the number of people filing for benefits for the first time in that week, continued claims measures the total number collecting claims that week.

The chart below tracks the number of initial unemployment claims in West Virginia by week.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

  • Total households enrolled in SNAP in April 2020: 162,275
  • Increase from previous month: 4.8%
  • Increase from February 2020: 8.9%

Like unemployment insurance, SNAP responds quickly to changes in the economy, and so it is also an early indicator for how West Virginians are faring. Because it is targeted to people with net incomes below the poverty line ($26,200 for a family of four), it is particularly helpful for knowing how West Virginians with low incomes are faring.

The chart below tracks the number of households enrolled in the SNAP program in West Virginia by month.

Source: West Virginia Bureau for Children and Families

Monthly General Revenue Collections

  • Total General Revenue Fund Collections April 2020: $388..5 million
  • Percent change in tax revenue year-over-year April 2020: -35.7%
  • April 2020 surplus/shortfall from estimate: -$192.3 million
  • March 2020 surplus/shortfall percent: -33.1%

The impact of social distancing and state shut down orders have just begun to impact state tax collections. West Virginia’s General Revenue Fund is expected to steeply decline in the coming months, making it harder to invest in vital services and respond to the crisis. A smaller workforce and less demand will especially impact the individual income tax and the sales and use tax — the two largest sources of revenue for the state. Without federal assistance, West Virginia will will face an unprecedented shortfall, leading to widespread public layoffs and significant cuts to public services.

The graph below tracks monthly General Revenue collections compared to the same month the previous year.

Source: WVCBP analysis of West Virginia State Budget Office data

Another way to look at the state’s revenue situation is to compare actual revenue collections to the estimated collections for that month. West Virginia, like all states, must balance it’s budget. Any revenue shortfall must be balanced. The graph below tracks monthly General Revenue collections compared to estimated collections.

Source: WVCBP analysis of West Virginia State Budget Office data

Department of Corrections

People incarcerated in the nation’s prisons and jails are at particular risk from the virus, due to lack of proper social distancing. In West Virginia, concern over a potential outbreak in the state’s correctional facilities has led to a review of cases and identifying candidates for early release and parole, in an attempt to reduce the prison population, and prevent the spread of the virus.

The graph below tracks the average daily prison population in West Virginia’s correctional facilities.

Source: WVCBP analysis of WV Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation data

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