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Revised federal data puts brakes on WV income growth claims

West Virginians’ personal income grew at one of the most plodding rates in the nation in the first half of 2019, according to federal data.

New findings released Tuesday from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis shows personal income in West Virginia grew by 1.5 percent in the first quarter of 2019 and by 4 percent in the second quarter, April through June. That ranks at 40th in the nation over the first half of 2019.

In June, the bureau estimated 2019’s first-quarter income growth rate to be 5.6 percent, which left West Virginia leading the nation for the quarter in income growth. But Tuesday’s adjustment means West Virginia’s income growth rate from January to March was 47th in the nation, rather than first.

According to BEA spokesman Matthew von Kerczek, the revised findings are based on new census data that came in, specifically in the construction sector.

The new data shows a “significant decline in construction wages” between the end of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019, he said.

“That definitely makes sense with the news that pipeline work is slowing down, and has been propping up our growth numbers,” said Sean O’Leary, an analyst with the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy.

On Monday, state Deputy Revenue Secretary Mark Muchow addressed lawmakers, attributing part of a budget shortfall to the loss of 4,000 gas pipeline construction jobs.

When the original numbers were released in June, both U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Gov. Jim Justice issued statements touting the data.

“How much more proof do we need that our days of being dead 50th are long gone? To be the top state in the entire country for personal income growth — truly think about that, number one in the country — it’s absolutely phenomenal,” Justice said.

Even after the revisions, Justice lauded the numbers, an increase in personal income withholding, record low unemployment rates and general growth “like we’ve never seen before.”

State data shows the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 4.6 percent in August, a record low since October 2008, according to Justice. The national unemployment rate is 3.7 percent.

Reach Jake Zuckerman at jake.zuckerman@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-4814 or follow @jake_zuckerman on Twitter.

Funerals for Sunday, October 20, 2019

Fink, Janice - 1:30 p.m., United Disciples of Christ Church, South Charleston.

Honaker, Dewey - 2 p.m., Arnett Assembly of God Church, Arnett.

Jenkins, Tina - 2 p.m., Hafer Funeral Home, Elkview.

Payne, Joseph - 3 p.m., Gateway Christian Church, St. Albans.

Snyder, Janice - 4 p.m., Snodgrass Funeral Home, South Charleston.

Vance, Kendall - 2 p.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.