Data Brings Hope to Kentucky Coal Mining Country
Monday, October 08, 2018
“We used to pray for a Saturday off. Now we just pray that we will get to work at all.”
This was the story in East Kentucky’s coal mining country. Over the last 10 years, the region has lost more than 8,500 mining jobs. Fewer than 6,000 mining jobs remain now, and that’s projected to be less than 4,000 by 2021.
The industry decline devastated the miners of East Kentucky, most of whom have a high school diploma or less and have worked in the mines all their lives. They’ve never had to interview for another job or think about what else they could do with their skill sets. In an area where the average wage for all jobs is $45,000, miners and their families thrived on the $75,000 average mining wage.
However, when the jobs disappeared, so did their hope. Most miners owned their homes and couldn’t afford to live elsewhere, nor could anyone in the area afford to buy their homes. Some were driving five or six hours to find work.
The situation looked bleak. But now, the region is once again thriving after using data to attract six new companies, add about 2,000 jobs, and re-skill coal miners.