U.S. Coal Jobs Down, but Still High in 2012
The State Journal
9 April 2013
By Pam Kasey
U.S. coal mining jobs came down a little in 2012 from their high
in 2011 but remained higher than in any other year since 2000.
The number of coal mining jobs came to 88,962 in 2012, compared
with 91,698 in 2011.
The numbers come from an April 9 report from the nonprofit
citizens' group Appalachian Voices.
Using data from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration,
the organization found that the average number of coal mining jobs
has been more than 15 percent higher under the Obama
administration, at about 88,000, than under the Bush
administration, at about 76,500.
While the data show some variations among coal-producing states,
each of the top ten states has had more mining jobs on average
under the Obama administration than under the Bush administration,
the group noted. Nine of those states saw higher coal mining
employment in 2012 than at any point during the Bush years.
While job losses in coal in West Virginia over the past two years
have drawn much attention, the 2012 total of 23,064 also came in
higher than any year this millennium excluding 2011 at 23,941.
Appalachian Voices Director of Programs Matt Wasson pointed to two
much-discussed factors to explain the continued high level of
One is an increase in coal exports. According to the U.S. Energy
Information Agency, coal exports in the fourth quarter of 2012
were higher than the previous five-year range, according to the
group's media release.
The other is a decrease in productivity, or amount of coal mined
per worker, due largely to harder-to-reach coal seams. Coal mining
productivity nationwide has declined 30 percent from its peak in
2000, the group said. Increased underground mining explains some
of the job increases, as it requires more workers per unit of
production compared with mountaintop removal and other forms of
The trend is particularly evident in Central Appalachia, the group
noted, where coal mining jobs grew from 28,552 in 2000 to 33,029
in 2012, an increase of 16 percent, even as total coal production
fell from 264 million short tons to 147 million short tons,
or 44 percent.
The group released its analysis prior to Thursday's scheduled
confirmation hearing for the president's nominee to head the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy, where the agency's
regulatory work over the past several years might be criticized as
part of a "war on coal."