THE Daily Mail reported last week that "for the third year in a row, United Van Lines has ranked West Virginia as one of the top states where people are moving out."
Census Bureau figures show that West Virginia's population declined by 2,376 from July 2012 through July of last year. Statistically, that's a drop of just one-tenth of one percent. It would hardly be worth mentioning were it not for the larger trend.
The state's population has been dropping gradually since it peaked at just over two million people in 1950. Now, we hover at around 1.8 million, give or take a few thousand.
Additionally, West Virginia is getting grayer. The Census Bureau reports that by 2030, nearly one-third of the state's population (30 percent) will be 60 or older.
Now all this may be good for the wide-open spaces of the Mountain State, but it's bad for the economy.
"We have a vicious cycle here," said John Deskins, director of West Virginia University's Bureau of Business and Economic Research.
"When the economy suffers, when young people don't see job opportunities in the state, they leave, and when the population starts to decline, markets are smaller for businesses. That makes them less inclined to move into the state," Deskins told me.
The result is a dearth of trained workers and a very low labor force participation rate. Companies are discouraged from opening or expanding here because they know the customer base isn't growing and it will be difficult to attract and keep a qualified work force.