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S&P Global Market Intelligence ($):

U.S. coal production in the first quarter of 2021 continued the industry’s recovery from a significant drop the previous year, but the sector’s employment levels are still suffering as the U.S. moves away from coal and embraces lower emission options.

While coal production during the first quarter of this year remained 6.0% below levels seen in the same period in 2020, it continued a recovery off of a historic low in the second quarter of 2020, an S&P Global Market Intelligence analysis showed.

U.S. coal production totaled 534.3 million tons in 2020, the lowest annual total since 1965, data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows. Quarterly production dropped to just 115.1 million tons in the second quarter of 2020 as pandemic-related factors weighed on demand.

Despite the uptick in production over the last three quarters, sector employment has continued to slide. Average coal mine employment numbers for the first quarter slumped 16.7% year over year to 39,507, according to the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration.

“If you look over the last 10 years, without significant climate change policy, we have seen a significant decrease in coal production, largely due to a transition toward natural gas as a power producer,” said Brian Anderson, director of the National Energy Technology Laboratory. “That occurred because of a technology change that occurred because of market principles.”

[Taylor Kuykendall]

More: US coal jobs continue to dwindle in Q1’21 despite production rebound

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