SNL Energy: Narrow band of 16 Central Appalacia counties ‘Ground Zero’ in coal job free fall

Excerpt: An SNL Energy analysis of coal mine employment data from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration shows that while most of the nation’s coalfields are suffering, 16 of the SNL Energy Average US mine employees graph25 counties rocked hardest by average coal mine employment loss since late-2011 are in a contiguous band in Central Appalachia stretching across Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia. For example, Boone County, W.Va., lost 2,689 employees in just over three years, representing a decline of 58% from the county’s average coal mine employment in the last quarter of 2011. Letcher County, Ky., Leslie County, Ky., and Nicholas County, W.Va., have all seen average coal mine employment shrink by more than 70% since the fourth quarter of 2011.

The data analyzed does not include a recent round of layoffs that occurred in the second quarter that will likely drag employment down even further. Murray Energy Corp. confirmed on May 22 that it plans to lay off 1,240 workers across its Northern Appalachia and Illinois Basin coal mining operations. Alpha Natural Resources Inc. on May 22 said it would lay off 439 employees in Central Appalachia — adding to the 71 jobs cut earlier that month. And Rhino Resource Partners LP announced June 2 that it planned to idle the majority of its Central Appalachia coal mines.

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