West Virginia leaders seek answers to population decline

West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) — According to the 2020 census, the Mountain State population dropped by 3.2%, the biggest decline of any state in the nation. That means nearly 60,000 people have left since the 2010 census.

West Virginia is one of only seven states to lose a seat in Congress.

Critics blame the lack of economic opportunity for the exodus.

“My daughter just graduated from Marshall and she’s going to looking for a job. We don’t have a lot of jobs for these kids to come to. We should have been diversifying our economy 40-years ago. Instead, we put all our eggs in the coal basket,” said Del. Jim Barach, (D) Kanawha.

The state has lost more than half its coal jobs since 2009, so many are suggesting West Virginia start training more people to work in the clean energy fields of solar and wind power.

While the Governor has launched a new program to attract remote workers to move into West Virginia, studies indicate anywhere from 20% to 40% of the state has no viable broadband.

“We need to make sure we are getting all areas of West Virginia connected to high-speed, reliable broadband internet. Because we need to be able to take advantage of those people who are wanting to leave the urban areas, seeing that remote work is now much more feasible than it was in the past,” said Brian Dayton, of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce.

And many encourage West Virginia to pursue more high-tech jobs.

The population decline is sure to add fuel to the arguments of Governor Jim Justice and many in the legislature, that West Virginia needs to reduce or eliminate its personal income tax greatly.

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