Unemployment rates ‘stable,’ according to Belding

Greene County’s unemployment rate is currently at 5.4%, according to statistics released Feb. 11, by the state Department of Labor and Industry.

Mike Belding, chairman of the Greene County commissioner, said the traditional industry in the region is based on fossil fuel extraction, which is where most of their jobs focus. However, there are plenty of jobs available aside from the fossil fuel industry. Belding said that the unemployment rates have been “stable.”

According to an article by the Observer-Reporter, both Washington and Greene counties saw a one-tenth of a percentage point increase in its unemployment rate last fall.

Although the unemployment rate is one of the lowest it has been, explained Belding, he said there is still a lot of work to be done in the county. With the expansion of several new businesses – WVU Medicine and other medicinal corporations – Belding said the county will grow but it will be a “slow process.”

Belding said that over 8% of their population has diminished. In addition, Belding said 14% of the student population are in their school district. Several community members of the younger generation leave the county to seek higher education or pursue corporate career paths.

Belding said there is a lot of work to be done with the region’s infrastructure to entice the younger generation to stay or return back, which is one of their focuses for the next couple of years.

Belding said that in regard to the Green County infrastructure, there needs to be some more work put forth for it to grow.

Last year’s statistics reported Greene’s labor force increased by 100 over the month, to 16,800. The number listed as employed (15,900) was unchanged, but the number of unemployed increased by 100 to 900.

With new commissioners in the seats of Greene County, Belding said fresh faces bring more ideas to the table to grow and diversify the economy of the region.

“Any time there’s change, people bring a new focus. We’re just looking at different opportunities,” Belding said. “I think in the next couple years, you’ll see an effort to stabilize the loss of our population and eventually entice individuals back with some of the changes we make.”