Friday, September 18, 2020
Trump promised Appalachian voters he’d save coal; he didn’t, but voters may give him credit for trying
President Trump obliterated Hillary Clinton in Kentucky and West Virginia in 2016. His promise to revive the ailing coal industry wasn’t the only reason, but it was a big factor. His failure to fulfill that promise won’t likely hurt him much in the election though.
Coal jobs in Eastern Kentucky averaged 3,813 from April 1 through June 30 of 2016. “In the same period this year . . . the industry employed an average of just 2,256 people in the region, according to the most recent report from the state Energy and Environment Cabinet,” Bill Estep and Liz Moomey report for the Lexington Herald-Leader. “Statewide, coal jobs in the second quarter of 2020 averaged 3,760, down from 6,517 in the same period in 2016.”
It could be tempting to attribute the coal-sector slowdown to the pandemic, “but the industry was at a low point in Kentucky even before that. The number of jobs in the state averaged 4,608 from Jan. 1 through the end of March, down by more than 2,000 from the 6,517 reported in the same time in 2016,” Estep and Moomey report.
Before the pandemic struck, the industry was on the ropes already because of falling demand and cheaper alternatives, Rebecca Elliott and Jonathan Randles report for The Wall Street Journal.
Nationwide coal employment figures don’t look much better: “The industry employed 50,400 people the month Trump was elected. It rose for a time during his term, but in February, before the coronavirus recession took hold, U.S. employment was back at 50,400, according to the U.S. Bureau of labor Statistics,” Estep and Moomey report.
The still-hurting coal industry won’t likely dent Trump’s popularity in Central Appalachia. Kentucky and West Virginia are considered such safe bets for Trump that neither campaign is focusing much attention on them. Many voters are willing to give him credit for his efforts to help the coal industry even if they haven’t worked, Estep and Moomey report.