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WVU Forecast: Eastern Panhandle economic recovery under way and expected to continue

The Eastern Panhandle is growing again and is forecast to gain momentum during the next four years, according to the latest forecast for the region, issued today by the West Virginia University College of Business and Economics. The Eastern Panhandle Region includes Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties in West Virginia.

The forecast was presented by the WVU College of Business and Economics today at the Eastern Panhandle Region Economic Outlook Conference at the Martinsburg Holiday Inn.

"The Eastern Panhandle added almost 700 jobs from the second quarter of 2009 to the same quarter of this year," said George W. Hammond, associate director of WVU's Bureau of Business and Economic Research. "That renewed job growth is far better than the continued job losses experienced by the state and the nation during the same period."

However, Eastern Panhandle job growth during the past four quarters came at a relatively modest pace, at 1.5 percent. That was enough growth to stabilize the nonseasonally-adjusted unemployment rate at 8.2 percent in the second quarter of 2010, but not enough to return the rate to the pre-recession level of 3.5 percent. The region's unemployment rate in the second quarter was below the state and national rate, of 8.6 and 9.5 percent, respectively.

"The outlook calls for the region to gradually pick up steam during the forecast and for job growth to average 1.9 percent per year through 2014," Hammond said. Assuming the national economy avoids recession, Eastern Panhandle job growth is expected to exceed state gains and to be just above the national growth rate. Most job gains are expected in government; professional and business services; health care; and trade, transportation and utilities. Job growth, in turn, drives the unemployment rate down and contributes to gains in per capita personal income. Population growth remains strong.

Details of the forecast are presented in the Eastern Panhandle Region Outlook: 2010-2014, available here.