Having identified the problem, let us see what the current facts and figures say about employment opportunities in West Virginia. Presented below is a snapshot in time of the March 2014 employment picture in the state (BLS.gov data). For all private sector employment categories, Trade, Transportation, and Utilities leads the way by employing 23% of the WV workforce.
Regardless of what you may have heard during election season, Natural Resources, and Mining is not a huge share of the state's employment at 5.7% of total private employment. Similarly, the Construction category accounts for only 5.5% of private state jobs. Manufacturing is a low source of employment at 8.6% although it is slightly higher than the previous two categories. Those three categories account for the almost 20% of employment that is associated with Goods Producing. The rest of private state employment, 80%, is attributed to Service Providing jobs. Education & Health Services are close behind Trade, Transportation, and Utilities with nearly 22% of employment. Together those two categories account for about 45% of the state's jobs. If you add Professional & Business Services (11.7%) and Leisure & Hospitality (13.1%), that group of four service providing categories accounts for 70% of all private work in WV.
That is the broad picture. If you are a student or unemployed West Virginian, you should probably look for work in one of those four categories. Education & Health Services probably consists of: nurses, doctors, health care administrators, private teachers. But the BLS data can be very specific within these categories. For instance, it might be beneficial to know that there were 7,534 jobs in home health care services for March 2014. Getting more detailed with the job numbers enables job seekers to get a feel for specific opportunities. The higher the employment, the more likely someone would be to find work in that category. Once a category of work is defined, a job search engine is a good place to start for finding specific job openings. Even more effective than internet searching is networking among friends and family. A large portion of workers learn of opportunities through social networks instead of official job listings. For students, this simple exercise can guide them in choosing courses and learning about industries while they are still in school.
The graph above looks at private employment only. Between federal, state, and local employment there are another 47,935 workers. These workers are considered separately because their wages come from tax revenue on private businesses. However, it may be beneficial for job seekers to know that nearly 48,000 government jobs currently exist and that the average annual wage for a government employee is above that of a service provider (broadly speaking). As you can see below, federal government positions pay considerably more than state and local jobs.
One thing that is not being considered with this "snapshot" is the trend of employment among categories. Looking at whether employment has moved up or down in each category over the past 5-10 years would allow us to make more definitive statements about where work is likely to be found.