- January 1, 2013
- Staff Report
The 2007 recession, the Great Recession, is now six years behind us. But the aftermath is still painfully evident throughout the nation. For those still struggling to find a decent job, for those who can’t secure the hours they need to make ends meet, for those who have watched their resources and meager unemployment benefits run out, the Great Recession has never really ended. On paper, and as proclaimed by the committee of experts who decide this, the recovery began nearly four years ago. But it is such an anemic and jobless affair that while market and balance sheets have
improved, too few jobs have been added. In Wisconsin, the recovery has proved even more meager. Yes, we have more jobs today than at the pit of the recession. Still, we remain behind the number of jobs we had in 2007 before the recession began. To put this in perspective, none of the recessions that current workers have lived through – not the 2001 recession, nor the softer 1991
recession, nor the brutal double dip recession of the early 1980s – produced so little job growth this far into recovery. We are still waiting for enough economic dynamism and growth to get back just to where we started.
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.
The State of Working Montana series explores the state of Montana’s economy from the perspective of its workers and documents how they are faring. In every report in this series, our analysis goes beyond the top-level indicators that many use to evaluate the Montana economy. Instead, we focus on what matters to people who live and work in Montana.
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.