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Morgantown MSA growth to accelerate in 2011

Economic gains in the Morgantown area are expected to accelerate in 2011, according to a new forecast released today at the Morgantown Economic Outlook Conference. The regional conference is presented annually by the West Virginia University (WVU) Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER) in the College of Business and Economics.

“The Morgantown area continued to outpace state and national job gains last year and I expect that trend to continue in 2011,” said George W. Hammond, associate director of the BBER. The metropolitan area includes Monongalia and Preston counties.

Local job growth hit 1.0 percent in 2010, well above growth in 2009 (0.6 percent) and much better than the job losses posted by the state and the nation. While the Morgantown unemployment rate remained relatively high in 2010 (6.2 percent), that was well below the state (9.2 percent) and national (9.6 percent) rates. 

“Overall, the Morgantown area came through the severe global downturn in much better shape than either the state or the nation, and it continues to be the most dynamic economy in West Virginia,” Hammond said.

Metropolitan area job growth in 2010 was concentrated in Monongalia County, although Preston County added jobs as well. “For Preston County,” Hammond said, “that is a welcome return to growth, after large job losses in 2009.”

Overall job gains in 2010 in the metropolitan area were concentrated in the service-providing sectors, as the goods-producing sector lost jobs (primarily in natural resources and mining, as well as construction). Job gains were widespread across service-providing sectors, with employment expansions in the areas of government (state and federal), professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, and health care.

“Assuming the national economy continues to expand, the forecast calls for the Morgantown economy to continue to generate job, population, and real income growth during the next five years,” Hammond said.

Job growth in the local area is forecast to average 1.8 percent per year from 2010 to 2015. That is well above growth during the past two years and well above the expected state rate (1.0 percent). Both the goods-producing and service-providing sectors are projected to add jobs during the forecast, but most of the gains are in the service-providing sectors. The largest job gains are expected in health care; government; professional and business services; trade, transportation and utilities; and leisure and hospitality.