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Rural Blog: Appalachian coal production, jobs at lowest levels on record, EIA report says

Coal production in the U.S. has reached its lowest level since 1986, according to a report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The region hit the hardest is Appalachia, where production is at its lowest level since 1978, the year EIA began collecting data, Jodi Delapaz reports for Agri-Pulse.

(EIA graphic: Average number of employees by mine type)

(EIA graphic: Average number of employees by mine type)

Coal production in 2015 was down 10.3 percent from 2014, Delapaz writes. In Appalachia it fell 17.3 percent, largely because of a 20.6 decline in Kentucky and a 14.8 percent decline in West Virginia.

The Western Region, which accounted for 56.6 percent of total U.S. coal production in 2015, was down 6.5 percent from 2014. “The number of the nation’s producing mines fell 13 percent to 853 mines, EIA says. And overall productivity capacity decreased for the fourth year in a row.”

Overall employment dropped 12 percent, to 65,971 workers, the lowest on EIA record, the report found.

The average number of employees at underground mines fell by 13.6 percent and at surface mines by 9.3 percent. Employment in Kentucky dropped 17 percent, a decrease of 2,840 employees, and employment in West Virginia dropped 15.5 percent, a loss of 2,013 emloyees.

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The Rural Blog is a digest of events, trends, issues, ideas and journalism from and about rural America, from the IRJCI, based at the University of Kentucky. The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues is an extension program for rural journalists and news outlets. It takes no positions on issues and advocates only for strong news coverage, responsible commentary and things that make them possible, such as open-government laws. For more information see www.RuralJournalism.org.

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