Economic forecasters at West Virginia University today said the Morgantown region will see solid economic growth through 2016. The new forecast was released today at the eighth annual Morgantown Economic Outlook Conference, a yearly event that examines the economy for the Morgantown Metropolitan Statistical Area.
According to George W. Hammond, associate director of the WVU Bureau of Business and Economic Research, housed in the College of Business and Economics, the Morgantown region will continue to post solid economic gains during the next five years.
“The Morgantown metropolitan statistical area (MSA) continued to expand in 2011, adding jobs and generating a slight drop in the unemployment rate,” said Hammond. From 2010 to 2011, the local area added 130 jobs, which translated into a 0.2 percent growth rate. That was slower than the state growth rate for the year (0.7 percent) and the national growth rate of 1.1 percent. The unemployment rate fell from 6.1 percent in 2010 to 6.0 percent in 2011, according to preliminary estimates.
Job growth in the Morgantown MSA last year was concentrated in health care; professional and business services; leisure and hospitality; and natural resources and mining. However, those job gains were nearly offset by job losses in construction, other services, government (federal, related to Census 2010) and financial activities.
“Local job growth was relatively slow last year, but that was likely a temporary pause caused by the completion of a large infrastructure project and by the loss of temporary federal government jobs related to the Census 2010 count,” Hammond said. “The forecast calls for the Morgantown MSA to continue to post solid growth in jobs, income and population during the 2012-2016 period, assuming the nation avoids recession.”
Job growth is forecast to average 1.8 percent per year during the next five years, similar to growth during the previous five-year period, and well above the 1.0 percent per year rate expected for the state and similar to the national rate of 1.7 percent per year. Job growth is also expected to be widespread across sectors, including job gains in natural resources and mining (a new coal mine and continued development of the Marcellus Shale play).
Most of the growth is concentrated in health care (with the expansion of facilities at WVU); professional and business services; government (expansion of federal prisons and military facilities in Preston County); trade, transportation and utilities; and leisure and hospitality.
Job growth during the forecast contributes to a gradual decline in the Morgantown MSAunemployment rate, which is forecast to fall from 6.0 percent in 2011 to 4.6 percent by 2016. In addition, job growth means continued income growth, even after adjustment for inflation and population gains. Population growth is also expected to continue to far outpace the state and to equal national growth during the next five years.
Full details are available in the Morgantown MSA forecast publication, which is available online at www.business.wvu.edu/bber.