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The only state where less than half its civilians work

OWoN: Of course a recovery is in progress and spending by consumers is on the rise. You need employment to cause this not welfare payments, as the drain can only go so long before it all ends. This is no US success story.

Not shown: Alaska has a participation rate of 63.4%, and Hawaii has a participation rate of 59.4%

The only state where less than half its civilians work

Market Watch
By Steven Goldstein
14 January 2015

Washington — West Virginia quietly passed the ignominious milestone of having less than half of its adult, civilian population in the workforce in November.

State data compiled by the Labor Department shows that West Virginia’s civilian labor participation rate has fallen to 49.8%, from 50% in October. The national rate in December was 62.7%.

The Mountain State is the only state in the history of the series, which goes back to 1976, to have fallen below 50%, though Mississippi at 50.8% isn’t far behind.

See interactive map of participation and unemployment rates.

The troubles that have befallen West Virginia have been well publicized, notably the diminished demand for coal.

At 6.3%, West Virginia doesn’t have close to the worst state unemployment rate, with Mississippi, California and Rhode Island each having jobless rates above 7%, and 11 other states with unemployment rates in the 6% range that are worse. But it’s a state where many have given up trying to find a job. At 17.6%, West Virginia has the highest percentage of working-age people on disability benefits, above the national average of 10.4%, according to 2012 data.

Beyond the troubled economic environment — and, in part, because of it — West Virginia also has an older population. At 41.9, West Virginia has the fourth-highest median age, according to Census Bureau data from 2013.

On the other end of the spectrum, the highest participation rate belongs to North Dakota, in the midst of a fracking revolution that has drawn workers to the state.



  1. W. Virgina may be at the bottom of the pile with people working, but realistically many states aren't far behind. That doesn't bode well for most of us, but can also be seen as a starting point forward.

    1. Everyday I am reading about Target closing stores, and small businesses closing the doors. Layoffs in the financial sector...banks laying off. So the recovery is hitting all of the states...and they call this a recovery when actually it's the opposite.

      Sometimes we have to take two steps back to take a big leap forward.


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