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U.S. Coal Employment ‘Continues to Probe Record Lows’

August 31, 2016

Kevin Hunt and Richard Kuykendall for SNL:

Average U.S. coal mining employment continues to probe record lows as average coal employees fell another 6.3% — about 3,436 jobs — in the second quarter compared to the prior quarter.

An S&P Global Market Intelligence analysis showed average coal mining jobs have declined 45.6% from a near-term market peak in late 2011 to the second quarter of 2016. In the same time period domestic coal production has fallen 43.2% compared to the year-ago period.

Prior to the most recent quarter, industry job losses had been picking up speed. In the first three quarters of 2015, average coal job employment was falling by less than 3,000 employees per quarter. Then, losses accelerated as many companies entered bankruptcy. By the final quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016, respectively, the industry lost 4,245 and 6,673 jobs.

The slowing decline rate may suggest that coal companies are getting closer to a supply balance that works in the current market of reduced demand due to natural gas competition, regulations and other challenges.

West Virginia has been the hardest hit by the decline in employment. Average coal mining employment fell by 13,137 from the final quarter of 2011 to the second quarter of 2016. That is about 53.0% fewer coal mine employees.

In Kentucky, which mines less coal than West Virginia, fewer jobs were lost but the loss of 11,508 jobs represents about 63.9% of the state’s coal employment since the sector peaked in late 2011.

Full article ($) with charts): US coal employment sliced to nearly half its level just 5 years ago

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