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WVU Forecast: Morgantown’s Growth Rebounds In 2010

Job growth in the Morgantown metropolitan area will rebound this year after unusually slow gains in 2009, according to a new forecast released today at the Morgantown Economic Outlook conference.

The annual conference was sponsored by the WVU Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER) in the College of Business and Economics.

“The Morgantown area economy came through the global downturn during 2008-09 in good shape,” said George W. Hammond, associate director of the BBER. “Local job growth is likely to continue this year and beat both the state and national rates again in 2010.” The metropolitan area includes Monongalia and Preston counties.

Morgantown added jobs at a 0.7 percent rate in 2009, which far outpaced the massive job losses posted by both the state (-2.6 percent) and the nation (-4.3 percent).

“Overall, Morgantown has remained remarkably robust in the face of a severe global and national downturn, but the area did not escape unscathed,” Hammond commented. “Indeed, Morgantown’s job growth in 2009 was far below growth in 2008, of 2.2 percent.”

In addition, he said, the local unemployment rate surged from 2.9 percent in 2008 to 5.1 percent in 2009. However, that remains well below the state rate of 7.9 percent and the national rate of 9.3 percent.

The outlook calls for the Morgantown MSA to generate stronger job growth in 2010, as the national economy gradually rebounds. Local job growth is forecast to average 1.7 percent per year during the 2009-14 period, which is far above expected state growth (0.7 percent per year) and just above expected national growth (1.5 percent per year).

Job growth in Morgantown is forecast to be strongest in service-providing sectors, like health care; government; professional and business services; leisure and hospitality; and trade, transportation, and utilities, he said.

Continued job growth means that the Morgantown unemployment rate will likely gradually fall during the forecast period. Job gains also contribute to continued inflation-adjusted income growth, with the Morgantown MSA expected to post faster growth than the state. The Morgantown MSA is also expected to continue to add residents during the next five years, at rates far above the state average, Hammond said.