Is West Virginia’s population loss as bad as it sounds?


OHIO COUNTY, W.Va. (WTRF) – As of today, census data and headlines are available. West Virginia’s population lost nearly 7,000 people last year, but those numbers can be misleading.

While it may seem like there’s a mass exodus from the mountain state, some officials say if you dig deeper into the data, there are some positive trends.

More people chose to settle in the state of West Virginia than to move.

State Senator Ryan Weld, (R) Brooke County

You read correctly.

2,343 people moved to the Mountain State in the past year, to be exact.

Our neighbors, Pennsylvania and Ohio, both lost about 3,000 people, so we’re ahead of those states when it comes to people saying “I want to move to this state.”

State Senator Ryan Weld, (R) Brooke County

This is why population loss numbers can be misleading if you don’t look a little closer.

The 6,839 residents lost only birth rate and death rate factors. So while there is still population loss, it’s not as significant if you factor in migration to the state.

All these figures have been calculated using the latest 2021 US Census data.

We’ve done a pretty good job of getting that person to come to Wheeling based on our quality of life here. Post COVID everyone realized you could be anywhere doing certain jobs so why not live in a beautiful community like this with the parks and the theater and the symphony and all that goes with quality of life.

Kurt Zende, President, Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce

Are there areas of the state where it will always be difficult to add population? Particularly some of the old coal counties, yes. They face real challenges there, but here in the Northern Panhandle I think we’re perfectly situated.

State Senator Ryan Weld, (R) Brooke County

Now the question becomes. how does west virginia get people here?

Much of it relies on attracting new business, but to do that, the Mountain State must also make itself a great place to relocate. Both Zende and Weld said that means having amenities such as affordable housing, broadband, recreation and lower taxes compared to surrounding states.

Zende said the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce plans to address some of those issues. He explained that they plan to build a business incubator with small offices to reduce business costs. They also plan to work with local colleges and universities to ensure that more students are educated in the occupations most in demand by businesses moving to this area.

I think there is a spirit of cooperation between a number of different entities involved in economic development. I think we have a governor who is very pro uh infrastructure. We have a very pro-business, pro-worker state legislature and governor. I think we will make these inroads to attract more business.

Kurt Zende, President, Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce

Changing that narrative in terms of this is a great place to do business because we’re doing a huge job on broadband so now you can work from home. You can have your business wherever you live. We have a low cost of living. The housing market is affordable. Change the conversation to what we want it to be about West Virginia, not what the naysayers want it to be about West Virginia. I think we will go in the right direction.

State Senator Ryan Weld, (R) Brooke County

Although there is positive news in trends for West Virginia, the state has lost a seat in the United States House of Representatives due to population decline.

West Virginia and Ohio each lose a congressional seat

However, it is important to note that the census data for this decision was compiled over the past 10 years. The figures mentioned above relate only to the past year.

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