Week before last I brought you some information published by West Virginia University's College of Business and Economics regarding the depths of the recession we've been in since the beginning of 2008, during 2009 and are in yet today. I wanted to bring you the forecast last week but with all that's going on in the area, I didn't have room. Here is a glimpse of the forecast by the same folks at the university.
The West Virginia economy is forecast to hit bottom this year. Data will prove or disprove this claim sometime in the second or third month of 2011. Since we are beginning to see some encouraging statistics coming from the national scene, it would appear that the forecasters may be right.
The state's outlook, according to the experts at WVU, depends on the outlook for the national (and global) economies. News coming out of Europe, especially Greece, and the affects of their deteriorating economies on the world's economy would indicate that things may not go as planned. Some voices in the economic world are suggesting that if the United States doesn't do what is necessary to slow and begin reducing its staggering debt, we may be facing the same financial crisis that Greece faces today.
Forecasts are for West Virginia's employment to stabilize during the first half of 2010 (which I think we are seeing) and for growth to pick up some momentum during the second half of the year. Last week Workforce West Virginia announced that the state's unemployment rate from exceeding 10 percent to a little less than 9 percent. That's good news but the economists say that gains are likely to be slow during the remaining years of the forecast, which runs through 2014 and that the state will not regain 2008 employment levels until 2014. The unemployment is forecast to be at 7.5 percent by the end of 2014.
Construction employment should rise modestly during the forecast period which reflects the end of the housing correction. Manufacturing employment is forecast to stabilize during the next four years as world demand recovers. Additionally, continued depreciation of the U.S. dollar, which makes U.S. goods and services more competitive internationally, will help drive increased demand for U.S. goods.
Most job gains during the forecast come in the service-providing sectors, particularly professional and business services and health care. Growth in the former reflects the rebounding national economy while health care gains are connected to the aging of the state's residents.
Significant numbers of jobs in trade, transportation, utilities, leisure and hospitality and government should experience significant gains between now and the end of the forecast period. While employment in leisure and hospitality continues to grow during the forecast, the rate of growth drops dramatically compared to gains earlier this decade. That reflects the increased competitive pressures in the gaming sector as neighboring states move to take advantage of this lucrative tax revenue source.
Aging of the state's residents will contribute to bring more job openings for younger workers as the baby boomers begin to retire in large numbers. This suggests that the state will have a better chance to retain young college graduates and generate stronger wage growth in the future.
Risks to the forecast include the possibility that the national economy will slide back into recession in late 2010. That would likely put the state back into recession also. There are specific risks to the forecast as well. One pertains to the natural resources sector and relates to national environmental policies. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has already begun to increase reviews of surface mining permits. This additional scrutiny has the potential to reduce surface mining especially in the state's southern coalfields
The nation (and Congress) continues to debate restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions - likely through a cap-and-trade policy. If these restrictions are implemented they will likely result in much lower levels of coal production in West Virginia with accompanying job and income losses. The impact of this policy would also adversely affect the manufacturing sector in the state.
Statistics here would indicate that a slow recovery may be coming.
Gino's participation in Randolph County's Relay for Life fundraising efforts on Tuesday were so successful that owner Frank Santmyer has agreed to participate again next Tuesday. From 4 p.m. until 10 p.m. customers can buy one pizza and get another one for only $1. That dollar is donated to Relay for Life. The organization's goal this year is $108,000. This is an excellent opportunity to help them meet their goal and enjoy great pizza at the same time.
The Elkins Depot Welcome Center is looking for volunteers to greet visitors from across America and many foreign lands. Last year those working at the center welcomed more than 28,000 visitors to our area.
The center is open 24/7 giving those who help the opportunity to work the hours that suit them best. If you are interested in helping, get in touch with Ed Griesel at the Welcome Center at 304-635-7803 or call Ceramics with Class at 304-636-2903.
The Elkins Farmer's Market opens today at the town square and will be open every Saturday through October. The hours are from 8 a.m. until noon.
This year's annual car show and cruise-in is scheduled for July 2, 3 and 4. The cruise-in will begin around 2 p.m. on July 2 and the car show will be in Elkins City Park on July 3 and 4.
The Colgate Country Showdown that has been a part of the weekend's entertainment for so many years will be on Friday evening this year on the Elkins town square. The fireworks will follow the showdown as soon as it gets dark.
This will be the 26th year that Jim Knicely and his wife, Suzanne, have overseen the management, organization and execution of this annual event. They have worked indefatigably over the years to ensure that the show was a success. As many now know, this will be their last year to supervise the event.
Many people have asked, "who will take it over?" and others say, "It would be a shame to let this event die because of its economic impact on the local economy."
Because of that importance to the area's economy, the Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce is exploring the feasibility of assuming responsibility for the event. Chamber board members discussed the matter at length at Tuesday's monthly board meeting. No decision was made pending receipt of additional information from other entities that might be involved.
The show has been sponsored by the Mountain State Street Machines which was organized in 1984. It has since become the state's largest show of its kind. It has grown from a show of about 25 cars that first year to more than 650 for nearly a decade. The show features modified street rods, original antiques and restored era vehicles.
Merchants are needed to participate in poker walks on Friday evening of this year's car show. Anyone who would like to participate may call Ed or Elaine Griesel at 304-636-2903. This is a great way to get new prospective customers into your places of business and to make new friends.