Since September 2011, the state has lost 5,695 coal jobs, or just over 30 percent, with more than 5,500 of those lost jobs from Eastern Kentucky coal mines, Estep reports.
Over the past 18 months, coal production in Eastern Kentucky has dropped 42 percent. Statewide production has fallen 26 percent during that time, and the smaller Western Kentucky Coalfield (part of the Illinois Basin) out-produced the larger Eastern Kentucky field in the first quarter of 2013, producing 10.4 million tons to 10.1 million.
"Eastern Kentucky coal producers face a number of challenges, including competition from relatively cheap natural gas and lower-cost coal from other regions in the country, higher mining costs, and tougher rules aimed at protecting the environment," Estep reports.
We reported on the decline in Central Appalachian coal most recently here and a recent conference in Eastern Kentucky designed to build a non-coal economy in Central Appalachia here and here. For a PDF of the state report on coal production and employment, click here.