What Are The Biggest Industries In West Virginia?

By Sundra Chelsea Atitwa on February 21 2020 in Economics

Aerial view of a coal mine in West Virginia.
Aerial view of a coal mine in West Virginia.
  • Mining has been an integral part of West Virginia for over a century and is a leading contributor to GDP growth in the State.
  • West Virginia has a long history of agriculture, dating back to the Native Americans and the early European settlers.
  • Tourism in the Mountain State produces $13 million daily economic impact.

West Virginia is the only US state created from a Confederate state. West Virginia broke off from Virginia in 1861, to form its own state when Virginia seceded from The Union. During the early days of the state, its mineral industry flourished. Today, mining remains an economic engine in West Virginia.

In 2014, the economy of West Virginia accelerated with a growth rate of 5.1%, ranking the state the 3rd fastest-growing state in the US. The economy of West Virginia today is both rich in natural resources and ripe with technological advances. Marked with consistent growth and diversification, the economy of West Virginia is a global hub for chemicals and a national hub for biotech industries. West Virginia is also a leading state in energy. The economy of West Virginia is also diversified in areas such as aerospace, automotive, manufacturing, telecommunications, media, education, healthcare, hospitality, metals and steel, forestry, biometrics and tourism.

In August 2019, the unemployment rate in West Virginia was at its lowest (4.6%) since the start of the Great Recession.

Here are some of the biggest industries in West Virginia:

Mining

Mining has been an integral part of West Virginia for over a century and is a leading contributor to GDP growth in the State. In 2016, the mining industry of West Virginia contributed $4.6 billion to the GDP of the state. The same year, the mining industry employed about 12, 566 West Virginians translating to 1.8% of the total workforce.

The most important mined product in West Virginia is coal. Coal was first discovered in West Virginia in 1742. Large scale production of coal in the state began in the mid-1800s. Out of the 55 counties of West Virginia, 53 of them have coal deposits. West Virginia is the 2nd largest producer of coal in the US after Wyoming. In 2017, the coal mining industry accounted for 2% of West Virginias employment. The coal industry employs about 30,000 people and was responsible for a $3.5 billion impact. About 75% of West Virginia’s mining income is derived from coal.

Natura gas is also mined in West Virginia. Natural gas accounts for 20% of West Virginias mining income. Other minerals mined in the state are petroleum, salt, sand gravel, and crushed stone.

Clean energy initiatives have had a considerable impact on the mining industry of West Virginia, especially on coal mining. Today, mining safety and ecological concerns are major challenges to coal mining in West Virginia and have caused a fall in the mining economic output in recent years.

Manufacturing

A large portion of West Virginia's manufacturing industry is chemical manufacturing. The chemical industry accounts for a fifth of the jobs in the manufacturing sector and nearly 40% of manufacturing sectors economic output. Chemicals manufactured in West Virginias are adhesives, plastics, pharmaceuticals and industrial chemicals.

Other manufacturing sectors in West Virginia are the motor vehicles and parts, primary metals, petroleum and coal products, fabricated metal products, wood products, aerospace and other transportation equipment, non-metallic mineral products, food, beverage and tobacco products. West Virginia is home to more than 1050 manufacturing firms. Besides, the state has one of the United States’ main concentrations of biotech industries and many automotive forerunners.

Manufactures in West Virginia account for 10.25% of the total output of the state. The manufacturing industry of west Virginia employs 6.48% of the total workforce. In 2018, the total output from the manufacturing sector in West Virginia was $7.94 billion. The same year, manufactured good exports earned the economy of West Virginia $3.64 billion. Small businesses account for 76% of the total manufacturing exporters in the State.

Agriculture

West Virginia has a long history of agriculture, dating back to the Native Americans and the early European settlers. In 2016, west Virginia generated $0.7 billion in agricultural receipts. The state’s agricultural production and processing industries represented 1.3% of the total GDP of West Virginia. In 2018, there were 20,400 farms in West Virginia, totalling to about 3.6 million acres.

West Virginia has a rugged terrain of rolling mountains, hills and valleys which has earned the state the name “the Mountain State.” As it can be expected in rugged terrain, livestock production is far more important in west Virginia accounting for 82% of the agricultural production. The highest valued livestock commodities are broilers, cattle and calves, turkeys, sheep and lambs, hogs, chicken and farm-produced fish. Livestock products produced are dairy products, chicken eggs and wool.

Hay is the number one crop produced in West Virginia. Hay accounts for 2% of West Virginias total agricultural receipts. Other crops grown in west Virginia are apples, corn for grain and silage, wheat, soybeans, peaches and tobacco.

Service Industry

There is a great deal of diversity in the service industry of West Virginia. The states service industry comprises of sectors such as health and education, biometrics and government, hospitality, media and telecommunications, printing, retail, tourism and banking. The largest share of gross product in the services industry is accounted for by community personal and business service.

Of significant importance to West Virginia are the tourism and healthcare industries which have been constantly growing over the recent years, adding more jobs and opportunities.

Tourism in the Mountain State produces $13 million daily economic impact. The tourism industry of West Virginia employs more than 45,000 people. Major tourist attraction in West Virginia is the Snowshoe Mountain, White Grass Ski Touring Centre, White Grass Ski Touring Centre, Oglebay Resort, Winterplace Ski Resort, and Canaan Valley.

The Mountain State is home to major media entities such as the Marquee Cinemas, West Virginia Radio Corporation, West Virginia Media Holdings, Ogden Newspapers and West Virginia Metro News.

NASA's Independent Verification and Validation Facility, the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division, and the U.S. Department of Treasury's Bureau of the Public Debt are some of the Government facilities located in West Virginia.

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