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UPDATE: Population decrease throughout the region; state officials react

Charleston, capital of West Virginia, is marked by the circle with the star on this map.
Charleston, capital of West Virginia, is marked by the circle with the star on this map.(WHSV)
Published: Mar. 23, 2017 at 11:02 AM EDT
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UPDATE 3/23/17 @ 6 p.m.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The newest U.S. Census figures show population declines in 2016 throughout the region.

West Virginia, eastern Kentucky, and southeastern Ohio are all losing people.

Most experts agree the population shift is due to the lack of economic opportunity, an aging population, and the crippling drug epidemic.

WSAZ reached out to state officials about the recent data on Thursday.

West Virginia Department of Commerce spokesperson Samantha Smith said in a statement, "The West Virginia Development Office is working, both domestically and abroad, to grow the state's economy by recruiting, retaining and expanding industries in the state. Part of the Development Office's mission is to understand the needs of companies interested in opening or expanding their business, and how those needs can be met with the advantages found in West Virginia."

The Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development said they are working on multiple fronts to grow the state's economy, increase the number of quality jobs available, and to provide education and training opportunities to ensure the commonwealth has a top-quality workforce.

And an affiliate of Jobs Ohio that focuses on Southeastern Ohio development told WSAZ the population decline isn't a surprise but they expect to see more job creation in 2017.

Kanawha County, West Virginia lost 1,966 residents, the most throughout the region.

Kanawha County Commissioner Kent Carper is confident the worst is over.

"Better days are still ahead of us," Carper said.

But in order to get to where the grass is greener, Carper thinks the federal government needs to step in with a jobs bill.


ORIGINAL STORY

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - U.S. Census figures show population declines in West Virginia's southern coal-producing counties led to an overall drop in the state's population last year.

The figures released Thursday show 47 of the state's 55 counties lost population from 2015 to 2016, including 20 counties that lost more than 200 residents.

Nine of the 10 counties that lost the most population were in southern West Virginia, which has seen a downturn in the coal industry in recent years.

Kanawha County lost 1,966 residents, the most in the state.

Three Eastern Panhandle counties saw population gains, led by Berkeley County with a boost of 1,890 residents.

Monongalia County, home of West Virginia University, gained 631 residents.

Overall, West Virginia's population fell by 9,951 to 1.83 million. The only state to lose more residents was Illinois.