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The town of Welch, W.Va., in McDowell County. (AP/David Goldman) The town of Welch, W.Va., in McDowell County. (AP/David Goldman)

The town of Welch, W.Va., in McDowell County. (AP/David Goldman)

By Patrick Orsagos November 29, 2018
By Zack Schwehm November 29, 2018

Was West Virginia the eighth fastest-growing state economy last year?

In a WV Metro News debate before he won another term in Congress, U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., defended President Donald Trump’s handling of the economy, saying the state had benefited disproportionately.

"Last year we had the eighth fastest-growing economy in the country in West Virginia," he said, responding to Kendra Fershee, his Democratic opponent.

Is McKinley’s statement accurate?

Earlier this year, data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis -- the federal office that calculates economic growth in the states -- showed that West Virginia ranked 11th in inflation-adjusted growth in gross domestic product between 2016 and 2017, with a 2.6 percent increase. That’s not the same as eighth, but it’s close.

That data, however, was subsequently updated, and the newer data is less favorable to West Virginia.

In the most recent calculations, West Virginia actually ranked 19th out of the 50 states in year-over-year change in GDP, with a 2.2 percent increase. So West Virginia was in the top half of the ratings table, but well below the eighth-place finish that McKinley cited.

A more impressive measurement for the state was one that McKinley didn’t mention -- the increase in GDP per capita, a statistic that adjusts the size of growth to account for a state’s population.

Using that statistic, West Virginia actually ranked in a tie for first with Washington state. Both notched a 2.9 percent increase between 2016 and 2017.

Analysts say the expansion of West Virginia’s mining sector accounted for the lion’s share of the state’s GDP growth.

It’s also worth noting that a reason for West Virginia’s high rates of per-capita GDP growth is population loss -- not a positive sign for the state.

McKinley’s office did not respond to an inquiry.

Our ruling

McKinley said, "Last year we had the eighth fastest-growing economy in the country in West Virginia."

The final data actually shows that West Virginia ranked quite a bit lower, at 19th. The state fared better using a different statistic that McKinley didn’t mention -- per-capita GDP growth, where it was tied for first.

We rate the statement Mostly False.

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"Last year we had the eighth fastest-growing economy in the country in West Virginia."
a debate
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Our Sources

David McKinley, remarks in a congressional debate, Oct. 31, 2018.

Bureau of Economic Analysis, state GDP data, accessed Nov. 27, 2018

Governing, The States and Localities, States with the top GDP growth, Nov. 2, 2018

Email Interview with Brian Lego, research assistant professor with West Virginia University’s Bureau of Business and Economics Research, Nov. 20, 2018

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Was West Virginia the eighth fastest-growing state economy last year?

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