The American Friends Service Committee's West Virginia Economic Justice Project and the West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy present the 2017 State of Working West Virginia: Understanding Low-Wage Work in West Virginia—a look at the people, industries, places, and policies affected by low-wage work in West Virginia.
Poverty is a persistent problem in West Virginia. Tens of thousands of West Virginians who work hard live in poverty because their jobs do not pay a living wage.
This is the 10th annual State of Working West Virginia. Each year, we have examined employment conditions in the Mountain State, from the decline of job quality in recent years, to long-term economic trends dating back to the early days of statehood.
In this edition, we focus on low-wage work, including the demographics of those who do the work; the industries that employ them; geographic factors; the role of public programs supporting workers in low-wage jobs; and policy recommendations to improve economic well-being. Low-wage jobs are not confined to teenagers entering the workforce, summer jobs for students, or those who work to supplement other family income. These are the people who do some of the most important work in our communities, such as caring for children and the elderly. In many cases, the wages paid by their employers are so low that they rely on public programs simply to keep working.
A living wage, for low-wage workers, would strengthen West Virginia’s economy, boost demand for the goods and services provided by local businesses, and help to increase the state’s chronically low workforce participation rate.