Desperate for Workers but Dead Set Against Migrant Labor

by Paul Kiernan

AB: I have written about West Virginia on several occasions. If you want some history on its politics and issue, you can go here, here, here, here, here, etc. and further back. One time, Senator Joe Manchin took to the Senate floor to preach about the death of a young and pretty West Virginian. He blamed the two appointees to the FDA for being the cause of this. West Virginia has it problems with a shortage of workers and a dislike for migrants. There is little being done by the state to resolve them. There is no city within West Virginia which has a population “at” 100,000. the largest being Charleston being ~48,000.


West Virginia’s Dilemma . . .

New data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that most counties in West Virginia are losing people. Only eight counties in the state are seeing their numbers go up.

Compared to the rest of the country, West Virginia’s growth is a lot slower. About 60% of counties in the U.S. are getting bigger. But in West Virginia, only 15% are growing.

The parts of West Virginia that are growing are mostly in the east. This is near Washington D.C., which could be why more people are moving there. In 2023, two other counties, Monongalia and Marion, also got bigger. US Census Bureau Report, WV News

Losing General population and a growing population of Adults 65+ in West Virgina

Percentage of people 65 years of age or older has increased from 2015 to 2022.

Median age in West Virginia is the 4th highest in the nation. Population has decreased 4% since 2010 till 2022.

Another way to say the population of 65-year-olds has increased in relation to the overall population of West Virgina. In 2010 the percentage of population 65 or older was 16.1%. In 2022, the share of the population 65 or older increased to 21.2%.

Why is West Virginia population shrinking?

FRANKLIN, W.Va.—Not many places need warm bodies more than this picturesque town in the Appalachian Mountains. There are so many elderly people and so few workers to take care of them that some old folks have died before getting off the wait list for home visits by health aides.

Janice Lantz, the local senior center’s director . . .

“We advertise all the time. We can’t hire a direct-care worker.”

West Virginia shares a demographic dilemma afflicting many parts of the country: an aging population and unfilled jobs. Decades of migration out of Appalachia have left West Virginia older, less educated and less able to work than other parts of the U.S. Its labor-force participation rate—the share of the 16-and-older population either working or looking for work—was 55.2% in March (see above chart), the second-lowest in the country.

Some other states, including Maine, Indiana and Utah, have sought immigrants to shore up their workforces. But while West Virginia represents one extreme in its labor needs, it represents another in its resistance to immigration.

West Virginia Pols Do Not Want Immigrants legal or not.

Since last year, Republican Gov. Jim Justice has signed legislation banning “sanctuary cities” in West Virginia and deployed that state’s own National Guard troops to the Mexican border in Texas. State lawmakers have introduced bills that would: require businesses to conduct additional screening for unauthorized workers; punish companies for transporting migrants who are deportable under U.S. law; create a program to enable state authorities to remove even some immigrants with legal status to work; and appropriate money for Texas to install more razor wire along the Rio Grande.

In a recent television ad, Moore Capito, a former Republican state legislator running to succeed Gov. Justice in November, enacted a scene in which he blocks a van of migrants from entering the state. West Virginia is “Desperate for Workers but Dead Set Against Migrant Labor: The West Virginia Dilemma,” WSJ

And the Evidence?

There is little evidence recent immigrants, legally or not, have any inclination to go to West Virginia. West Virginia is the only state with fewer residents than it had in 1940. The foreign-born portion of its population is 1.8%, the lowest of any state.

Local business groups representing manufacturers, bankers, real-estate agents, builders and auto dealers are lobbying against the proposed worker-screening legislation. The new legislation if it passes would deter needed workers and create burdensome and duplicative requirements for the businesses.

Steve Roberts, president of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce . . .

“We should avoid sending messages, either overtly or through our actions, that this is not a good place to come if you’re willing to work. The state doesn’t need only doctors and engineers. Manual Labor types are needed to do the work that some of us have just gotten too old to do.”

The West Virginia Dilemma,, originally published at WSJ


AB: I read the excellent WSJ article by Paul Kiernan (there is also an MSN link to this article). He gives a lot of detail about West Virginia and its issues. It is really West Virginia’s issues. Why would a minority and or legal immigrant come to West Virginia? Yes, they say; the state wants legal residents.

But the state is going to pass laws which force businesses to investigate any immigrant before hiring. If the immigrant is ok, then they can work there. The issue here is when does the investigating stop? If they are on the street walking to a store, how many times can they be stopped by police? And the police will stop someone who appears to be an immigrant. Or someone who sees them, could call the police on them. It is becoming a hostile environment to anyone who looks different that West Virginians.

Is this a realistic view?


The chart to the left shows population with Hispanics included and the one to the right is without Hispanic population included. I am not sure way they included a variable Hispanic population. Black Americans are a larger minority. The other point to these charts being 91.2% of the West Virginia population is White in 2022 and down 2% from 2010. “West Virginia population by year, county, race, & more,” USAFacts.


To take care of people, I will be paid $10 – $12 per hour? West Virginia ranks 46th for Comfortable job salaries. A comfortable salary being $11.15 (25th percentile) to $15.24 (75th percentile) in West Virginia. If they can not find people at $10 to $12 dollars an hour, maybe they should raise the amount to $12 to $14 per hour. People will not come there ifs they can not afford to live there is a reasonable fashion. If you can not find the people, than raise the income and be prepared to have some Benefits too. “Comfortable Salary in West Virginia: Hourly Rate,” 2024, ziprecruiter.

West Virginia has issues besides labor and salary as revealed in Paul Kiernan’s piece in the WSJ.