Some blame the Obama administration’s “war on coal,” others cheap natural gas or falling demand, but one thing is indisputable: Coal mining employment took another tumble in April, shedding 1,600 jobs from the previous month.
Coal mining now employs 83,600 Americans, down from March’s 85,200 jobs and down from February’s 84,700. A year ago the total stood at 88,500 jobs.
The number of coal mining jobs fell from its 2011 high of more than 91,698 to 88,962 in 2012 — which was still higher than any other year since 2000.
Republicans have recently renewed attacks on the Obama administration’s alleged “war on coal,” saying it has hurt the coal industry and cost jobs.
“After more than four years, it is clear this administration has declared a war on coal,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican. “You in eastern Kentucky have suffered the most. Coal production in the region is down by nearly 28 percent, the lowest level since Lyndon Johnson was president. As a result, 4,000 miners in eastern Kentucky have lost their jobs — a drop of nearly 30 percent.”
The Kentucky coal industry has been hit hard by EPA regulations and other economic factors that have caused coal mine employment in the state to fall 30 percent since last year. Eastern Kentucky counties have been hit hardest and some have seen coal jobs plummet by more than 60 percent.
However, critics have rejected the notion that there is a war on coal. The environmental group Appalachian Voices reported last month that the average number of coal mining jobs was over 15 percent higher during Obama administration than during the Bush administration — about 88,000 jobs compared to about 76,500 jobs.