Thousands of Coal Workers Have Been Laid off as the Industry Declines
The future of coal is in question as 2020 brings on its biggest decline in 60 years. That means increasingly tenuous employment for coal workers.
Dec 4, 2020Updated 7 months ago
Approximately 53,000 Americans are employed by the coal industry, and some 26 counties nationwide are considered "coal-reliant," according to a report published by the Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP) at Columbia University SIPA in 2019.
More than 6,000 coal mining jobs were lost in March and April of this year due to a combination of lower energy consumption because offices, stores, and large buildings closed during the initial months of the COVID-19 lockdown and other market factors, like the dropping price of photovoltaic panels to use for solar power.
There are more job losses and more mines closed than at any time in U.S. history since the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the 1950s.
Many of these job losses and closures took place in Appalachia, in towns originally built around the coal mines and/or were heavily dependent on them for survival. As the Brookings Institute summarized: "Estimates of the direct linkages between the coal industry and county budgets will almost certainly understate the risks because lost economic activity and jobs will have ripple effects across the economy."
While relatively higher salaries for the region will keep some of the recently laid off miners afloat, health insurance, and future housing and living costs are a real concern.
Add the pressures of navigating life in a pandemic when so many workers cannot perform their jobs remotely, and it is a recipe for economic turmoil in the region that may spread.
Even West Virginia, where coal has garnered steadfast support, saw its share of industry trouble when Longview Power filed for bankruptcy in April 2020. It followed several bankrupt coal companies across the country in the last few years. All of these have caused worker uncertainty.
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Thousands of coal workers lost jobs. Where will they go?
The collapse of coal: pandemic accelerates Appalachia job losses
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