A shining light for the Mountain State is its homeownership rate, which is
the highest in the nation. Despite falling from its peak of 81. 3 percent in
2005 to 74. 9 percent in 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, West
Virginia still maintains the country’s best homeownership rate, one that
is considerably higher than the 2015 national rate of 63. 7 percent.
A major factor propelling that high ownership rate, however, may be
the state’s low property values. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s
American Community Survey, the average median value of owner-occupied homes in West Virginia from 2010 to 2014 was just $100,200,
the lowest mark of any state in the nation. The national average during
that same time frame was $175,500.
Leading States for Homeownership
Source: U. S. Census Bureau
Percentage of total occupied housing units that are
owner-occupied in 2015
By Rob Crow
Energy slowdown pulls Mountain State’s economy down
After several years of steady growth, West Virginia’s economic engine began
to sputter in 2013 and has been struggling since, thanks largely to turmoil in
the energy sector that fuels the Mountain State’s economy.
In third-quarter 2015, for example, the state’s annualized gross domestic
product (GDP) stood at $70.1 billion, a 2.2 percent decrease compared with
third-quarter 2014. Much of that decline can be attributed to a decline in the
state’s largest industry, mining — which includes energy exploration.
Between the second and third quarters of 2015, contraction in the mining
sector resulted in a 1.8 percent decrease in West Virginia’s GDP, U.S. Department of Commerce figures show. Wyoming was the only other state more
negatively impacted by a mining decline during that time.
Over the first 11 months of 2015, the state lost 5,000 jobs in the mining and
logging sectors, according to WorkForce West Virginia, which projects that
4,000 more such jobs could be lost by the end of 2017.
The state’s estimated population also has declined slightly each year since
2012, and stood at 1.84 million in 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The West Virginia Economic Outlook 2016, published by the West Virginia University (WVU) Bureau of Business and Economic Research, estimates
that another 23,000 residents will leave the Mountain State over the next
On the rise in 2015 was West Virginia’s per capita personal income (PCPI),
which increased 2.5 percent from 2014, to $37,047. That was still well behind
the national PCPI in 2015 of $47,669, which was up 3. 5 percent compared to
2014. West Virginia’s 2015 PCPI ranked 49th among states, although it was
better than a decade earlier, when the state ranked last nationwide — with
a PCPI of $26,360. West Virginia posted a compound annual PCPI growth rate
of 3. 5 percent over the 10 years ending in 2015, which outpaced the national
rate of 2.9 percent over the same period.
One area where the state’s economy could see a shot in the arm, according to WVU’s Economic Outlook, is in exports. Coal represented more than
40 percent of the state’s exports in 2014, but as the state’s coal output declines, other exports are increasing. Combined, West Virginia exported more
than $3 billion worth of chemicals, industrial machinery and transportation
equipment in 2014, with each of those sectors recording increases over
2014. WVU also expects natural gas exports to potentially foster long-term
economic growth for the state. n
What the locals say
Owner and president,
Mountain State Lending Associates Inc.
“Overall, I think West Virginia is doing pretty well. We didn’t
get hit in the financial crisis like a lot of places did, because
our values never went up. We’ve always been kind of slow
and steady, and I think that’s been a benefit to us. In my area,
we’ve had a lot of economic growth with the gas-drilling
industry, and that’s filtered down to help the housing market.”