The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

October 11, 2012

Unemployment fund healthy despite job losses

By Mannix Porterfield
Register-Herald Reporter

— Some 5,500 jobs have vanished in West Virginia since August, but the unemployment compensation fund remains healthy.

And that, says House Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, means businesses have another good reason to either remain in West Virginia or set up shop here.

WorkForce Director Russell Fry told the Joint Committee on Government and Finance in Wednesday’s interims that projections are the fund will take in $243,564,000 this year, while paying out $220,007,000 in benefits.

That would leave an end-of-year balance of $128,849,000, he told the committee.

Thompson said afterward the fund is based on legislation enacted a few years ago.

“We secured the unemployment compensation fund by doing different things, one of which was we did not raise the employers,” he said.

If the fund accumulates up to $220 million, the contributions can actually decrease, Thompson noted.

“They’re projections are based on trends of what happened last year and they take all those numbers into consideration,” he said.

Since August, lawmakers learned, there were 4,700 fewer jobs in coal mining and logging, 2,700 in trade, transportation and utilities, 2,200 in manufacturing, 2,300 in government and 1,000 in other services.

At the same time, 3,500 jobs were added in educational and health services, 2,900 in construction, 500 in leisure and hospitality, 400 in financial activities and 100 in professional and business services.

In August, the unemployment rate in West Virginia stood at 7.5 percent, while nationally it was 8.2 percent.

“We’ve been doing fine,” Thompson said of the unemployment fund.

“I think the fund is projected to be stable. And I think that’s a good thing.

Thompson pointed out that the majority of states — including those that surround West Virginia — were forced to borrow federal dollars to keep their unemployment funds in the black.

“And now they have to pay the federal government back and to do that they have to raise rates on their businesses and their employees,” the speaker said.

“We don’t have to do that.”

By maintaining a stable account, Thompson said the state can become more attractive to the business community.

“We’re in a position hopefully that makes businesses more willing to locate here or stay here, knowing their unemployment compensation rates are secure and they’re not going to get charged any more,” he said.

“It would be an extra incentive to come to West Virginia.”

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