West Virginia sees progress in wake of economic reforms

Several states have embraced reforms including “right to work” in recent years. “Rust belt” stalwarts like Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin have adopted such laws to great effect. But, comparisons to New Mexico are difficult. They are industrial powerhouses despite recent problems.

And then there is West Virginia which adopted “right to work” and repealed its prevailing wage law earlier this year. These reforms are also top priorities for conservatives in New Mexico.

And West Virginia is a lot like New Mexico. Just ask the Albuquerque Journal’s Winthrop Quigley. Both states are physically beautiful, culturally and geographically isolated, historically-Democrat-dominated, poorly-educated, and poor.

At the Rio Grande Foundation we believe that incentives matter. We believe that good policies CAN overcome cultural and geographical challenges. It takes time and progress may not be steady, but over time, incentivizing work and removing obstacles to it will result in more work and greater prosperity. The results so far relating to unemployment seem promising.

Since February of this year, West Virginia’s unemployment rate has dropped dramatically from 6.5 to 5.7 percent while New Mexico’s remains stuck at 6.4 percent;

The number of unemployed in West Virginia has dropped 10% while in New Mexico the number has gone up slightly;

The chart below illustrates the unemployment trends in the two states. While  more time needs to elapse, it certainly seems that West Virginia policymakers have begun to move their State’s economy in the right direction.




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2 Replies to “West Virginia sees progress in wake of economic reforms”

  1. The problem with comparing unemployment stats is the WV’s don’t take into account the out-migration of able-bodied workers, leaving in the state, claiming unemployment, a smaller number of unemployed workers and a smaller labor force. This out-migration trend will continue until the state hits on some combination of reforms that bring significant number of employers of skilled workers into the state. (I don’t know about NM stats.)

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