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Economic report: West Virginia public college graduates come through downturn with higher employment numbers

More West Virginia public college graduates found work in the state in 2010, according to the report "West Virginia Higher Education Graduate Employment And Wage Trends: 2003-2010," issued by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC) and the West Virginia University (WVU) College of Business and Economics.

"Of graduates with at most nine years of experience, 48.1 percent worked at establishments located in West Virginia in 2010," said George W. Hammond, associate director of the WVU Bureau of Business and Economic Research. "That is up from 48.0 percent in 2009 and 47.9 percent in 2008," Hammond said. "Overall, public college graduates came through the downturn in much better shape than residents with less education," Hammond said.

The report provides detailed analysis of West Virginia work participation and wage trends for state public higher education graduates, with results by year, experience, residency status, degree and gender.

However, the report also notes that the downturn had the biggest negative impact on graduates with the least experience. West Virginia work participation rates fell in 2009 for graduates with two to three years of experience, and graduates with that level of experience continued to have less success finding employment in the state in 2010.

Overall, the study shows that of the 142,047 West Virginia public higher education graduates during the past 13 years, 64,272 worked at establishments in the state in 2010. That translates into an overall work participation rate of 45.2 percent. The majority of recent graduates (2008-2009 academic year) worked in the state in 2010, with a work participation rate of 55.7 percent.

The study also shows that in-state graduates are much more likely to work in West Virginia after graduation than out-of-state graduates.

"Work participation rates for both in-state and out-of-state graduates rose from 2008-2010, reflecting the fact that the state came through the Great Recession in somewhat better shape than the nation," Hammond said.

Graduates with Associate's degrees were the most likely to work in the state in 2010, followed by Master's, first professional (lawyers and medical doctors), bachelor's, and doctoral graduates. The downturn during 2009 hit male graduates harder than female graduates, with large job losses in male-dominated sectors like mining and logging, manufacturing and construction.

"With recovering job growth in mining and logging, as well as manufacturing, work participation for male graduates rebounded in 2010," Hammond said.

Public higher education graduates working in the state in 2010 earned $2.7 billion, which translates into an average annualized wage of $42,247. Annualized wages earned by graduates declined slightly from 2008-2010, at a rate of 0.1 percent per year.