The economic expansion in the Morgantown area is expected to continue, though with less aggressive job growth over the next few years, according to the latest forecast from the West Virginia University College of Business and Economics. The forecast was released March 19 at the annual Morgantown MSA Economic Outlook Conference.
“Uncertainty in the global and national economies will have an effect on West Virginia’s growth, but less of an impact on the local economy. We expect a continuation of the past decade’s growth in the local economy, but at a slightly slower pace,” said Dr. Paul Speaker, spokesperson for the Bureau of Business and Economic Research in the College. The Morgantown Metropolitan Statistical Area experienced an average annual growth in output of 3.4 percent over the past several years, including a 2012 growth rate of 6.7 percent.
The Morgantown MSA did not see large employment declines during the recession. Even at the height of the recession, employment growth in the Morgantown MSA was above 1.5 percent, and only fell off in 2011 when it grew by 0.7 percent. Employment is expected to settle in at around 1.5 percent annual growth over the next four years.
Most major sectors are expected to do well, with professional and business services leading the growth trend. employment in the construction, natural resources and mining sector, and the manufacturing sector are expected to grow faster than the last five years. Job gains in health care are expected to grow as these jobs are related to the aging of the state’s residents. Jobs in professional and business services will expand in reaction to the increased demand for business services like accounting, legal, management, computing and call center services.
The forecast calls for most measures of income growth to remain sluggish over the next five years. Inflation-adjusted per capita personal income is forecast to rise by 1.4 percent on an average annual basis over the next five years.
“Sustained job growth during the forecast translates into a gradually declining unemployment rate during the next five years,” said Speaker. “The Morgantown MSA already boasts one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state, and well below the national average. We project the Morgantown unemployment rate to continue to fall through the end of our forecast period in 2017.”
Morgantown MSA population growth is expected to slow to 1.3 percent on an average annual basis, ending at 1.2 percent in 2017, which is closer to the region’s 20-year historical average of 1.1 percent. This growth rate is projected to remain well above the state’s growth rate of 0.3 percent.
Full details are available in the final report available via download free of charge from the WVU Bureau of Business and Economic Research at www.bber.wvu.edu
CONTACT: Paul J. Speaker; WVU College of Business and Economics
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