West Virginia workers earned more on average in 2013 than 2012, but not by much, according to data released by WorkForce West Virginia this week.
Workers’ average wages were up 1.2 percent to $40,199 last year. Boone County reported the highest average earnings of $50,670, followed by Marshall County at $50,352.
Wirt County had the lowest average earnings last year — $25,899 — followed by Tucker County at $26,516.
West Virginia Chamber of Commerce president Steve Roberts said Boone County earning the highest average isn’t anything new. The county has traditionally been one of the largest coal-producing counties in the state, and with that came the higher-paying coal job wages.
Boone County continues to lead, but its earnings have decreased while overall state earnings have increased. In 2011, Boone County workers’ earnings averaged $58,467 compared to $50,670 in 2013. The state averaged $39,092 in 2011 compared to $40,199 last year.
Roberts said where the state produces energy, incomes are higher than other counties. But West Virginia still has the second-lowest family income in the nation.
“Some could extrapolate from that we can either produce energy or produce poverty,” Roberts said. “But the alternative is to make a serious effort to diversify our economy — to make some changes we have not been willing to make.”
Roberts added while the state should take full advantage of its energy resources, it’s also important to recognize where the state stands in the national economy for future generations of West Virginia workers.
Industries showing employment losses included government, natural resources and mining, construction, manufacturing.
The report showed Berkeley, Monongalia, Taylor, Brooke and Harrison counties experienced the most employment growth.
“It’s the energy boom,” Roberts said of the growth in Monongalia, Taylor, Brooke and Harrison.
“[But] we can’t solely depend on energy production for our economic well-being in West Virginia,” Roberts added. “I continue to be concerned we have all our apples in the energy-producing basket and we are not doing enough to diversify our economy.”
Roberts said the state is not producing enough highly qualified high school and college graduates for the workforce for companies to move into the state for business.
The No. 1 compliant from companies that the chamber hears, Roberts said, is the state needs people who can come into the workforce and perform and pass a drug test.
The educational and health services, trade transportation and utilities, professional and business services and leisure and hospitality industries all experienced employment growth in from 2012 to 2013.
Reach Caitlin Cook at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5113.