While the state slowly recovers from the Great Recession, struggles remain. There is only one job opening for every four people looking for work, the state has the lowest workforce participation rate in the nation, and West Virginia workers earn, on average, one dollar less an hour than the national average. Raising the minimum wage, creating a “Future Fund” by setting aside part of the severance tax on coal and gas, and expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act are just a few of the policy recommendations in this year’s report. Read
It is not unusual in West Virginia to hear strident warnings about the state’s business climate, the status of which is said to range from healthy to “hellhole.” Whatever the merit of such statements, it is only fitting at least once a year to change the question and to ask instead what the climate is for West Virginia’s working people.
Working people, after all, are the drivers of our economy as well as just about everything that moves in the state. They mine the coal, extract the gas, manufacture the goods, deliver the goods and provide the services, and care for the people. Their compensation, in the form of wages and benefits, provides most of the demand that drives the economy. By virtue of their labor and spending, they are arguably our real wealth and job creators.
And, unlike the gas, oil and coal that lie beneath our soil, they can and do move all by themselves, often heading for better opportunities elsewhere when these are not to be found in the Mountain State. This report will examine the most recent data on the well-being of working families and make recommendations about policy decisions that could maximize their well-being.
Utilities around the country are facing serious challenges, including an aging infrastructure and a need to transition to cleaner energy sources. These challenges are particularly evident at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), the nation’s largest municipally owned utility. The LADWP can begin to meet these challenges by adopting an innovative and ambitious energy efficiency policy with new programs that save customers money, reduce greenhouse gas pollution, and create good jobs. In doing so, the LADWP will take a significant step towards modeling a transition all utilities must make, from being entities concerned solely with the rapid acquisition and dispersal of natural resources to agencies proactively engaged with energy planning and management.
Ohio is among the many states that fail to leverage corporate subsidies for good jobs, according to a new national study. “The least we should do is require that these companies create good jobs that allow workers to support and care for their families,” says Wendy Patton of Policy Matters.
First, the good news: Virginia’s workers are among America’s most productive. The state ranks in the top 10 in terms of worker productivity. More Virginians are
working and rates of participation in the labor force outstrip those of the United States as a whole and those of its nearest state neighbors.
Now, the bad news: Virginians are working harder and longer than ever, but are paid far less than they contribute. The growing gap between high and low wage earners in our economy has remained at the highest levels recorded since 1979. To make matters more challenging, coverage for health insurance and pensions has shrunk. And for those who do have health insurance, premiums in Virginia are among the highest in the country. Unemployment rates are on the rise, but the number of unemployed covered by the unemployment insurance system continues to lag.