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State revenues above estimates, though margin has narrowed

November 14, 2018

October tax collections came in less than 1 percent above estimates - a chilled performance following months of double-digit percentage point surpluses.

According to a news release from Gov. Jim Justice’s office sent just before 7 p.m. Saturday, the state’s general fund grew by $359.2 million last month. That’s $2.4 million, or .67 percent, above estimates. That figure is 1.5 percent higher than October collections from 2017.

For the last three months, Justice has deployed leis, music and other fanfare to tout big revenue months like September (14 percent over estimates) or July’s (12 percent over estimates). However, the governor released October’s data later in the month than usual and minutes before he issued a second news release announcing former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Allen Loughry’s resignation.

Year-to-date collections are about 8 percent above estimates and 13.5 percent above last year’s receipts. The surplus comes from above average severance tax, consumer sales tax, personal income tax and corporate net income tax revenue.

“West Virginia’s economy continues to move forward and Revenue Fund collections keep exceeding the estimates for Fiscal 2019,” Justice said. “This is a great story that keeps getting better and the numbers keep supporting it.”

While state and federal economic data shows some recent ticks of good news, they also show a federal economy growing at a much healthier rate than West Virginia’s.

According to Workforce West Virginia data, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate sits at 5.2 percent here, compared to 3.7 percent nationally.

State-by-state data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows West Virginia ranks among the highest unemployment rates in the nation, behind only the District of Columbia (5.7 percent), Alaska (6.5 percent) and Puerto Rico (8.4 percent).

The latest data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis shows West Virginia’s GDP grew by 1.3 percent in the first quarter of 2018, ranking 37th of all states. Across all of 2017, it grew by 2.6 percent.

In comparison, the national GDP grew by 1.8 percent in the first quarter of the year and by 2.1 percent in 2017.

Findings from the BLS show the state labor force is down from roughly 815,000 in January 2008 to about 780,000 in January 2018. Similarly, employment is down from about 780,000 to 740,000 in the same time frame.

Additionally, more than 19 percent of West Virginians live in poverty, according to U.S. Census data, compared to 12.3 percent nationally. West Virginia, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi had the lowest median household income by state in 2016; also, West Virginia was one of only three states in the nation to experience a statistically significant increase in income inequality (along with Louisiana and Wisconsin), according to other Census data.

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