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Jefferson Co. jobless rate is W.Va.'s lowest

December 21, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Jefferson County posted a 2.7 percent unemployment rate last month, the lowest rate of any county in West Virginia, according to the state Bureau of Employment Programs.

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Berkeley County had a 3.2 percent unemployment rate and Morgan had a 2.9 percent rate - both well below the state average of 6.1 percent, according to Marco Zappala, manager of the bureau's Martinsburg Job Service.

The rates were also below the national average unemployment rate of 3.8 percent, Zappala said.

Local economic development officials attribute the extremely low rates to steady economic growth in the Eastern Panhandle that has supplied plenty of jobs.

But the low rates have also presented challenges for employers, who are sometimes having difficulty finding qualified employees.

There were 21,150 civilans in Jefferson County employed during November and 590 people who were unemployed, according to Zappala's office. In Berkeley County, there were 35,540 people employed during the month and 1,120 who were unemployed.

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In Morgan County, 8,350 were employed and 180 were unemployed during the period, according to Zappala.

Local economic development officials and companies have tried several ways of attracting more workers to the area, said Judy Faul, executive director of the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Chamber of Commerce.

The Berkeley County Development Authority has been involved in several job fairs, including one in Morgantown. Authority officials not only were looking for West Virginia University graduates who could be attracted to the Panhandle, but were also looking for workers who may be close enough to the area to commute, said Faul.

"It's a very competitive job market," Faul said.

Unemployment rates in the Panhandle were up as high as 13.8 percent in 1982, but they have been declining ever since with the area's rapid growth, Zappala said.

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