USA: Trump’s Coal Job Drive Stumbles In First Year

Reuters has obtained preliminary US government data which shows that, overall, coal jobs only increased by 771 through Donald Trump’s first year in the Oval Office, a figure which hides numerous job losses and only minor job gains in US coal states. Late last week, Reuters claimed that it had obtained unreleased full-year coal employment data from the Mining Health and Safety Administration which showed that coal jobs had fallen in 16 of the 26 coal states. The job losses in these states were offset primarily by an increase of 1,345 jobs in West Virginia, as well as in Virginia and Pennsylvania, where coal companies have opened several new mining areas intended to ship overseas.

This makes sense, considering that coal within the United States continues to decline. According to the US Energy Information Administration’s Electric Power Monthly report, coal’s role in the country’s electricity mix has been steadily declining for years now. In absolute terms, between 2007 and the end of 2017, coal’s role in the national energy mix declined by nearly 50%.

So while Donald Trump may have promised to bring back the country’s coal industry and revitalize jobs in the sector, the reality paints a very different picture. Coal’s role in the country’s energy mix continues to decline, and there are simply not enough overseas customers looking to increase their own coal purchases to sustain Trump’s vision of a booming coal industry.

So while West Virginia definitely saw a significant increase in coal jobs during Trump’s first year – enough that he could proclaim in a recent interview with Reuters, “West Virginia is doing fantastically well. It’s great coal.” – the overall story does not support a revitalized industry. Coal states all across the country saw job losses, and only four states saw meaningful job increases – West Virginia, Alabama, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

Texas lost a total of 455 jobs, while Ohio was a close second, losing 414. However, while Pennsylvania saw an increase of 96 jobs in 2017, it is expected to soon lose jobs after Dana Mining announced that it would close a mine employing around 400 people. In the end, while there are some state-specific increases, the number of US coal jobs still hovers around historic lows at less than one-third the level in the 80s.