The Bureau of Business and Economic Research at West Virginia University released its annual Economic Outlook Report for the state earlier this month. West Virginia is expected to experience slow job growth, with employment forecasted to grow at an average rate of 0.4 percent per year for the next five years, according to the report’s forecast. That’s below the projected national average of 0.7 percent per year, and would represent a step back from the gains the state experienced in 2017.
BBER’s employment growth forecast of 0.4 percent per year is a sharp drop from previous years’ forecasts, suggesting the West Virginia’s “Economic Comeback” may be more wishful thinking than reality. The 2018 forecast of 0.4 percent is the lowest employment growth forecast put out by BBER since 2013, which is the earliest report they have available on their website.
And, once again, the state’s Economic Outlook makes no mention of the impact of the state’s right-to-work law on employment growth. West Virginia’s right-to-work law was passed in 2016, and after a court challenge, took effect in September 2017. Before its passage, right-to-work advocates touted an economic analysis from BBER, projecting that right-to-work would add a .056 percent annual increase in annual employment growth, once the law took effect. As this figure from BBER’s right-to-rork report shows, a 5-year forecast should show a clear 0.56 percent increase in employment growth from the baseline.
BBER’s 2017 Economic Outlook projected that employment growth will average 0.7 percent annually. Using that as the pre-right-to-work baseline, the 2018 employment growth projections should be around 1.26 percent annually, incorporating the supposed 0.56 percent boost from right-to-work.
Instead the 2018 employment growth projection is only 0.4 percent annually, below the pre-right-to-work baseline, and nowhere near where what was claimed would happen in the run up to pass right-to-work in West Virginia. By now, it should be clear that the right-to-work claims were flawed and the policy is not fueling any sort of economic resurgence in the state.
Between increasing poverty, weakening job growth, and now a dismal Economic Outlook, it is time West Virginia’s leaders started having an honest conversation about the state’s economy, rather than one crafted by international consultants to drive a narrative not matched by reality.
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