Economic forecast positive

Ah, there’s good news tonight.

Jefferson County is expected to enjoy both state-leading increases in both job growth and population over the next few years, according to Paul Speaker, a professor of finance at West Virginia University College of Business and Economics.

Speaker said the county’s population growth is expected to average 1.42 percent per year over the next five years, the highest in the state. During the same period, the county is also expected to lead the state in employment at a rate of 1.79 percent per year.

“That’s fairly dramatic,” Speaker said. “Far more than anywhere else in the state.”

Currently, Jefferson County has the fourth highest employment rate in West Virginia.

Paul Speaker

He said the county is also expected to have the highest annual growth in production.

“All productivity will have a positive impact,” Speaker said, adding income is expected to be a bit more modest over the next five years, about 2 percent a year, but enough to keep tabs with the rate of inflation.

“Jefferson is one of only 10 counties in the state with above-average income,” he said.

West Virginia lost 23,000 jobs from the third quarter of 2008 to the fourth quarter of 2009. During the following six quarters, the state added back more than half the jobs lost during the economic downturn.

Speaker said the state is likely to continue to expand during the next five years, mirroring the national economy with slightly lower average annual improvements.

“The forecast calls for West Virginia’s job growth to average 1.2 percent per year through 2017, which is slightly less than the expected national rate of job growth,” Speaker said, adding sustained job growth during the forecast translates into a gradually declining state unemployment rate during the next five years. “The forecast calls for the West Virginia unemployment rate to fall to 5.7 percent by the end of 2017.”

Speaker said continued, but slow, job growth during the forecast period translates into inflation-adjusted income growth with West Virginia’s real per capital income growth to average 2.2 percent per year.

“That is faster than growth during the past five years but is below the expected growth nationally.”

While some counties can expect very good rates of growth during the forecasted period, Jefferson County will stand out.

“Jefferson County is doing extremely well,” he said.

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