March jobs report was bad for W.Va.
THE Legislature tackled long overdue reforms in education and corrections this year but continued to ignore the biggest problem facing the state: unemployment.
The severity of this problem was brought home this week as the government announced that the state unemployment rate had fallen to 7 percent in March, its lowest rate in a year.
While 750,900 people having jobs in March was good news - that's the most in four years - the state added only 500 jobs in March.
Most of the reduction in the unemployment rate came from people leaving the work force, as 2,000 retired or gave up their job searches in March.
A state that is losing four workers for every worker hired cannot sustain itself. That leaves too few revenue producers to support a state filled with retirees and others who cannot work.
And yet lawmakers could not even bring themselves to approve Morgantown's proposed tax increment financing district in the regular session, a project that city officials say will add 1,500 jobs.
"Overall, I don't think we've done enough to push the economy forward," freshman Delegate Daniel Hall, D-Wyoming, told the Register-Herald in Beckley.
"Have we had a bad session? No. We haven't done any harm to the state. We just haven't done enough to spur the economy."
Veteran Delegate John Overington, R-Berkeley, was appalled.
"Despite success in some areas, including a baby step in education reform, lack of success in job creation has been disappointing," he told the Martinsburg Journal.
"My view of the best welfare program, the best health care benefit comes from a good-paying job, and West Virginia has a long way to go in that area.
"Lawsuit abuse was not addressed. Taxes and the business regulatory climate have not had the changes we need to deal with the 60,000 unemployed West Virginians. Hopefully, we can focus on these issues in 2014."
The loss of people in the labor force is fueled in part by more and more baby boomers reaching their retirement years.
But there is plenty the Legislature can and must do to expand the employment opportunities for subsequent generations. The state needs more jobs. Now.