Pocahontas unemployment remains highest in state

Marlinton, W.Va. – The unemployment rate in Pocahontas County dropped two tenths of a percent to 14.4 percent in May, but remained the highest in West Virginia. Workforce released county data on June 18. Only seven counties in the state have unemployment rates in double digits. Webster County has the second highest unemployment rate at 12.0 percent. The state unemployement rate increased two-tenths of a point to 6.9 percent in May.

Workforce Region 1 executive director Melissa Aguilar discusses reasons for Pocahontas County’s high unemployment rate.

“I think the number one reason is that it’s so rural, number one” she said. “Number two, you have a limited number of large employers in Pocahontas County. Then, thirdly, you also have a limited number of full-time employment. So, when you look at – for example, Snowshoe, which is more seasonal than anything – that contributes to the unemployment level, as well.”

Workforce spokesperson Courtney Sisk says Pocahontas County unemployment is usually low during ski season.

“Pocahontas County is extremely rural, with no major urban areas, no close proximity to an interstate corridor,” she said. “Pocahontas County will usually have fairly low unemployment during the ski season. That’s because not only the people who are actually working at the resort, but the hotels and food services throughout the county.”

That wasn’t true for the most recent ski season. Between November 2011 and February of this year, the county unemployment rate averaged 10.9 percent, far greater than the state average of 7.6 percent during the same period.
Aguilar discusses Workforce programs to decrease unemployment.

“First of all, we work really closely with the Department of Health and Human Services, so that anyone receiving state assistance, who’s ready and willing to go to work, they are referred to us,” she said. “We do something called OJT with them, which means that they actually go to the employer. We reimburse wages to that employer for that person to be trained. So, that’s number one, which has really helped to decrease the unemployment level.”

“Secondly, for dislocated workers, who have been laid off – they are eligible for not only unemployment, but a whole host of other resources. For example, there’s scholarships available. There’s assistance through child care, transportation, et cetera. So, there’s lots of resources that are actually hidden – believe it or not – that people don’t know about.”

The executive director sees signs for hope for more Pocahontas County jobs.

“We have been working some with the state Economic Development Office in trying to look at what the skill set is here,” she said. “Fortunately, one of the great things you all have going for you is your college-going rate and your education rate has increased. So, you’ve got more people going to college and getting training now than what you did before. Anytime you see that in an area, normally, that recruits new business to the area.”

“The other thing is entrepreneurs, who want to start new businesses – that’s becoming more of a prospect. I just signed 80 letters saying ‘congratulations’ to entrepreneurs throughout the region.”

Workforce West Virginia has an affiliate office in Marlinton. Job seekers can speak to an advisor in Marlinton every Tuesday and apply for unemployment assistance every other Wednesday. Workforce operates full-time offices in Elkins and Lewisburg. For more information, call Workforce West Virginia at 304-799-2509.

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Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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