Contact Sean O’Leary, 304-720-8682
(Charleston, WV) For decades, West Virginia has struggled with the nation’s lowest levels of labor force participation. A new report released today by the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, “State of Working West Virginia 2015: Answers and Solutions to West Virginia’s Low Labor Force Participation” examines what a low labor force participation level means, why so many West Virginia’s workers are not in the workforce, who they are, and what can be done to get them back on the job. PDF of news release. PDF of full report.
“West Virginia’s low level of labor force participation is largely due to its relatively older, unhealthy, and uneducated population,” explained Sean O’Leary, Senior Fiscal Analyst with the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy and one of the report’s authors. “While the state has consistently had the lowest level of labor force participation in the country, this report uncovers some areas where the state is doing well that we can learn from. For example, the state’s college graduates have an above-average labor force participation rate, while rates are also high for workers with families.”
West Virginia’s low level of labor force participation is one of the state’s greatest economic challenges. Improving the state’s participation rate greatly depends on improving the state’s economy by creating more opportunity for its workers. Policies that help workers stay on the job, and stay healthy, will not only improve the state’s labor force participation rate but also its economy.
“To boost labor force participation and economic growth, policymakers need to give families the tools they need to join and stay in the workforce,” said Ted Boettner, Executive Director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy and coauthor of the report. “This includes enacting a refundable state EITC that will increase hours worked, expanding child care access to more low-income working mothers, and increasing our investment in higher education and workforce training.”
Some Key Findings