The economy of West Virginia is based mainly on manufacturing and mining. Agriculture is a supplementary source of income, and some lumber production is carried on. The state’s early economic development was closely linked to the exploitation of its raw materials: coal, timber, and oil and natural gas. In the last decades of the 19th century and into the 20th century the production of the extractive industries reached its peak. Manufacturing began to grow rapidly early in the 20th century and, stimulated by World War I (1914-1918) and World War II (1939-1945), became the leading element in the state’s economy. In the second half of the 20th century, the coal industry rapidly mechanized and surface mining increased. These changes, together with the shift made by many consumers from coal to oil, led to severe unemployment among coal miners. Although unemployment rates had dropped considerably by the mid-1960s, largely through the migration of workers from the state, West Virginia continued to be plagued by pockets of severe poverty and underdevelopment.
Agriculture is an important supplement to the livelihood of some West Virginians, particularly mining families. Some of the farms are sidelines for people who work away from the farm when jobs are available. Farms covered about one-quarter of the state’s land area in 2005. The principal commodities produced for cash are livestock and related products, especially poultry and poultry products, beef cattle, and dairy products; nursery and greenhouse crops; and orchard fruits. Other crops include corn, soybeans, hay, apples, tobacco, and peaches. Hay and corn are grown mainly as animal feed. Commercial agricultural operations center largely in the Eastern Panhandle. Elsewhere in the state, farms are predominantly part-time operations.
Lumbering is a minor source of income and employment. It is most important in the ridges and valleys adjacent to the Allegheny Front and in the southern plateau. In addition to lumber, the most important forest products are pulpwood, mining timbers, and charcoal. Almost all lumber is hardwoods. "West Virginia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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