WV EMPLOYMENT NUMBERS GETTING ROSY - But 2000 Jobs Left State Within Weeks

Despite the permanent loss of nearly 2000 West Virginia jobs in the past few weeks, the unemployment rate is looking rosy.

It continues to improve, dipping to 5.3% in August, according to the Bureau of Employment Programs.

The agency says since August 2003, the state's economy has produced four-thousand new jobs. Most of those are in the service-producing sector.

The official unemployment numbers are used as a gauge on how the economy is doing, and according to the statistics it is doing quite well with jobs.

The statistics reflect people who are actually drawing unemployment benefits.

But when jobs are gone, there are no jobs from which to be unemployed, with residents leaving the state no longer a factor.

Pendleton County recently had the best employment stats in the state, but few people are employed in Pendeleton County.

About 275 AT&T employees learned yesterday they would lose their jobs in November when the company closes its Charleston center, the latest in a string of massive job cuts to hit the state.

The workers at the center — some of whom had been with the company for 28 years — said they are in shock. The company said they needed to improve their bottom line.

CWA vice president Doug Harris, who has worked for AT&T for 28 years, said "They're not telling us the jobs have been outsourced. But that's what we know has happened. We're not stupid."

Anyone calling AT&T customer service will likely get someone on the other end with an Asian accent, Harris said.

AT & T spokesman Dan Lawyer blames the decision the job losses on a Bush regulatory decision that makes it difficult for the company to compete. Senators Rockefeller and Byrd both criticized the Bush administration for failing to appeal the court ruling. They say the administration has turned its back on the workers.

"I know West Virginia is a swing state and if this president wants to do something to make this state swing this way, he'd step in here and do something to save these jobs," said Charleston Mayor Danny Jones.

Recent permanent job losses:

AT&T Call Center, Charleston: 275
Applied Card Systems, Huntington: 660
Walker Systems, Williamstown: 300
Mayflower Vehicle Systems, South Charleston: 375
Dow Chemical, South Charleston: 165

The Little Kanawha regional counties have been hit hard with several thousand permanent jobs being lost to Mexico, India, China and other countries.