Though federal officials like to talk about soft landings while manipulating the economy through interest rates and other policies, those living across Appalachia know those landings tend to be a little bumpier.
Looking at changes in the unemployment rate by state from WalletHub shows that this may already be obvious. The study looked at how unemployment rates are changing across the 50 states and Washington, DC, using data from December. Overall, our tri-state is in the bottom half — Ohio at #43, Pennsylvania at #26, and West Virginia at #38.
Since the Washington, DC-based personal finance website reports Ohio’s most recent unemployment rate as 4.2 percent, that means the change in unemployment was 0.35 percent from November through December and minus 4 from December 2021 through December last, 7 percent. In comparison, New Mexico led the way in this category with a year-over-year change of minus 33.1 percent.
In West Virginia the unemployment rate was 4.1 percent, in Pennsylvania it was 3.9 percent. In West Virginia the change from November to December was minus 1.5 percent, in Pennsylvania it was minus 0.7 percent. From December 2021 to last December, West Virginia saw a change of minus 5 percent, while Pennsylvania saw a change of minus 27.6 percent.
From December 2020 (in the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic) to December, Ohio’s change was minus 31.7 percent. In West Virginia, the change was minus 34 percent, while in Pennsylvania it’s minus 49.3 percent. Hawaii has managed to recover enough to have a minus 66.9 percent over the same period.
Certainly there are differences in the populations and economies of states that make these types of comparisons somewhat unfair. But for that very reason, the federal government must be cautious about applying blanket policies that they know will harm some in order to help others.
Our national unemployment rate is 3.5 percent. Those using federal interest rate hikes to beat inflation say they expect the national median interest rate to rise to 4.4 percent. What would a similar percentage point increase look like in our region if we are already behind on the recovery that much of the rest of the country is said to have witnessed?
If, as we’re used to, people in Washington, DC aren’t really interested in the answer, officials — state and county — need to be as much of a buffer as possible for communities where residents can’t take many more hits . Remember, we’re nearing the final month when those eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits will receive the extra check they’ve been getting for nearly three years.
On this front alone, officials, grant writers, agency workers and their local private partners are working hard to cushion the blow. Because they are here. They know our country and our people, and they know the need. They are to be commended for the work they have done so far. But if the Washington speech is any indication, that work is just beginning.