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Guest editorial (Wheeling): Path to recovery still rocky in West Virginia

Reprinted from The Intelligencer, Wheeling News Register

Officially, West Virginia emerged from the Great Recession about a year ago. Now, some economists and state government leaders see new reason for optimism about the economy.

Last week, West Virginia University economists reported their Mountain State Business Index posted gains during 11 of the past 13 months. Even coal mining is benefiting from something of a comeback. In August, coal production in the state was 3.9 percent higher than for July.

In fact, the coal industry’s mini-resurgence was responsible for most of the overall increase in economic activity during August.

“We remain confident that West Virginia’s economy remains firmly in recovery territory and should post moderate growth over the next several months,” commented John Deskins, director of WVU’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

But we have a long, hard road yet to travel.

Among the more honest measures of economic health is the labor force participation rate, showing what percentage of working-age people actually have jobs.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, West Virginia’s rate is 53 percent — the lowest in the nation. The national average is 62.9 percent.

No doubt state legislators and Gov. Jim Justice already have begun planning for the next regular legislative session, to begin in January. Clearly, tax reform should be on their agenda — and any consideration of tax increases should be crossed off the list.

Our economy may be improving, but it still needs all the help it can get.

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