Thursday, February 05, 2015

Eastern Kentucky hits record low in coal jobs; Central Appalachia continues to lose coal jobs

Eastern Kentucky has lost nearly half its coal jobs since 2009, hitting a record low in 2014, Bill Estep reports for the Lexington Herald-Herald. And Western Kentucky—where the coal industry has been more stable—suffered a major blow with the recent closure of two Patriot Coal mines that employed 600 workers—or 14 percent of all coal jobs in the region. Western Kentucky lost only 16 coal jobs in 2014—the most recent closures will show up on first quarter 2015 statistics.

In 2009 the coal industry in Eastern Kentucky employed 14,100 people and dug or blasted 75.3 million tons of coal, compared to last year when it employed 7,288 last year and produced 37.5 million tons of coal, Estep writes. Coal production last year dropped 5.3 percent in Eastern Kentucky and 3.7 percent statewide. Overall, 11,574 people work in the Kentucky coal industry, the lowest number since the state began keeping records in the 1920s. (Herald-Leader graphic)

West Virginia and Pennsylvania have also been hit hard by closures and layoffs, with Patriot Coal and Alpha Natural Resources announcing layoffs and closures throughout 2014, Clement Daly reports for World Socialist Web Site. The coal industry blames its production cuts on low natural gas prices, regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency to cut emissions and high production costs at its mines, which has lead some companies to head West where production is cheaper.

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