Boone County has lost thousands of coal mining jobs, report says

Boone County, W.Va., lost 2,689 employees in just over three years, representing a decline of 58 percent from the county’s average coal mine employment in the last quarter of 2011.

BOONE COUNTY, W.Va. — Thousands of coal mining jobs have been lost in Boone County, W.Va., in a short period of time, according to a recent report.

An SNL Energy analysis of coal mine employment data from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration shows that while most of the nation’s coalfields are suffering, 16 of the 25 counties rocked hardest by average coal mine employment loss since late-2011 are in a contiguous band in Central Appalachia stretching across West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia.

For example, Boone County, W.Va., lost 2,689 employees in just over three years, representing a decline of 58 percent from the county’s average coal mine employment in the last quarter of 2011. Statewide, West Virginia has lost over 10,000 coal mining jobs over the same three year period.

Letcher County, Ky., Leslie County, Ky., and Nicholas County, W.Va., have all seen average coal mine employment shrink by more than 70 percent since the fourth quarter of 2011.

The data analyzed does not include a recent round of layoffs that occurred in the second quarter that will likely drag employment down even further.

Murray Energy Corp. confirmed on May 22 that it plans to lay off 1,240 workers across its Northern Appalachia and Illinois Basin coal mining operations. Alpha Natural Resources Inc. on May 22 said it would lay off 439 employees in Central Appalachia — adding to the 71 jobs cut earlier that month. And Rhino Resource Partners LP announced June 2 that it planned to idle the majority of its Central Appalachia coal mines.

Meanwhile, the Boone County Comission has said that the county has lost millions of dollars in coal severance taxes, property taxes and other revenue due to the decline in the coal market and loss of coal mining jobs.

“It has had a huge impact on our county budget,” said Boone County Commissioner Mickey Brown.

Mining equipment displays had been a regular feature of the West Virginia Coal Festival, but at this year’s festival there was not one piece of equipment on display. Festival officials said due to the decline in the coal markets, manufacturers have stopped making equipment and there was nothing to display.

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The forecast for overall job losses for West Virginia doesn’t look well either.

For West Virginia, the bad news could get worse. The state had the dubious distinction of being the only one to lose jobs in the year through May, according to Labor Department data. The Conference Board projects West Virginia will see a 9.5 percent decline in its working-age population over the next decade and a half, the second-biggest drop.

Meanwhile, U.S. Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito, along with Representatives David McKinley, Alex Mooney and Evan Jenkins, applauded the Department of Labor’s approval of Workforce West Virginia’s emergency comprehensive workforce training proposal. The $5.2 million grant will expand job training programs for unemployed West Virginians, particularly those individuals in the coal mining industry and industries related to and affected by continued mining layoffs.

“In the past several months, we have seen a devastating amount of coal mining layoffs,” Senator Manchin said. “It is unacceptable and it is jeopardizing not only our coal industry, but our way of life in West Virginia. We need to do everything in our power to help our miners in these most challenging and uncertain times. This funding will expand job training programs that will help them develop the skillsets necessary to fill other available positions. I thank Secretary Perez and the Department of Labor for their swift approval of this proposal.”

“Significant layoffs in West Virginia’s coal industry have been absolutely devastating to hard-working coal miners, their families and individuals in related industries. We must do everything possible to identify new career and skills training opportunities for unemployed West Virginians,” said Senator Capito. “The Workforce West Virginia and West Virginia Community and Technical College System Sector Partnership promises to serve our dislocated workers through training programs that will lead to high-wage, high-skills jobs in manufacturing, information technology, health care, oil and gas, and other emerging sectors of our state’s economy. I’m pleased the Department of Labor heard West Virginia’s call and granted funding for this critical workforce training proposal.”

“West Virginians still cannot find jobs. Government-imposed regulations are crushing the American Dream. Our state has lost 45 percent of its coal workforce in the past 3 years – families are hurting and they deserve our attention. Grants like this, to train and educate our workforce, are vital to West Virginia’s future success,” Representative McKinley said.

“Upon the urging of myself and the delegation, I am pleased to see that this administration has decided to help us combat unemployment in our state. I will continue to work with this administration, when possible, to advance the policies that will help put West Virginians back to work,” Representative Mooney said.

“Southern West Virginia’s coalfields have been decimated by layoffs, and our families are struggling to make ends meet. Job retraining is vital to helping West Virginians get back on their feet. This grant will allow Workforce West Virginia to expand its work and help even more families secure a better future,” Representative Jenkins said.

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