Blog Posts > WV Economic Growth by Gubernatorial Administration (1941-2009)
September 15, 2010

WV Economic Growth by Gubernatorial Administration (1941-2009)

Often when analysts or journalists look at economic growth over a long period of time, they tend to break things down by decade, comparing the 2000s to the 1990s and so on. Sometimes they will look at economic trends by presidential administration, often to tie economic growth or decline to particular administrations and their policies. I decided to have some fun and look at certain economic indicators by gubernatorial administration in West Virginia. While who’s governor of a state is only a very small factor in a state’s economy, it’s still a good way of putting these numbers in a historical and social context. Another reason why it is good to look at economic growth by administration is that voters tend to reward an incumbent for prosperity and punish him or her for economic distress.

These next three charts show the annual average growth of West Virginia’s real GDP, real per capita personal income, and total non farm employment. GDP numbers were available for 1965 to 2008, personal income numbers were available from 1961 to 2009, and employment numbers were available from 1941 to 2009.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis
Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
So what does all of this tell us? One clear takeaway is that the recession of the early 1980s, represented in these charts by now Senator Rockefeller’s administrations, took a heavy toll on West Virginia. Even twenty years later both real GDP and real per capita personal income have not recovered to their pre-recession growth rates. And since the decline of the coal industry in the 1950s, job growth has been anemic for every administration, with almost no job growth for the past decade. 
Most of this data was collected before the current recession really began to take hold in West Virginia. And if the effects of recessions that ended 30 years ago are still being felt in West Virginia, then hard times are almost certainly in store for the future. But, to quote Robert Kennedy, “And if our times are difficult and perplexing, so are they challenging and filled with opportunity.”  

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