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Report: State of Working West Virginia

December 5, 2008

Charleston, WV – West Virginia has been lucky to escape the brunt of the nation's economic crisis on the jobs front, so far, according to the new State of Working West Virginia report. The downside in the report is that wages have not kept pace. The median hourly wage is lower now than it was in 1979, when adjusted for inflation.

Report author Ted Boettner, director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, notes that higher-paying manufacturing jobs have declined by half in 30 years, and union-covered jobs are down by a third. The net result, he says, is that "good-paying" jobs are scarce.

"Only about 21 percent of jobs in West Virginia are good-paying jobs, meaning they pay $17 an hour and they have health care and retirement benefits. So, we really want to increase that."

Boettner says a better-educated workforce would help attract higher-paying jobs to the state. And, he says, there are other things the state could do to help working families with a hand up on the wage scale. He suggests raising the state minimum wage and instituting a refunding Earned Income Tax Credit.

"We also could make it easier to attend community college. We have 'promise scholarships' for people who are going to four-year colleges, and what we need are 'promise scholarships' for people that are going to community colleges."

Boettner predicts the economic crisis will result in a drop in state employment for 2009. That's been disputed by some economists who say West Virginia is well-insulated from the economic turmoil.

The State of Working West Virginia report can be found at www.wvpolicy.org.

The report, economic analyses, and a discussion on how to improve wages are on tap at the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy conference December 5, 2008.

Deborah Smith/Deb Courson, Public News Service - WV