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WVU Study Shows American Coal Industry Generates $261 Billion in Economic Activity and 381,000 Jobs

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CHARLESTON, W.Va.  A new study on the economic impact of America's coal industry shows that even when facing the worst regulatory pressures in history, the mining and coal-fired power generation industries still generated nearly $261 billion in economic activity and upwards of 381,000 jobs for American workers and their families.


“Coal and coal-fired electric power has always been a major driver behind our nation’s economy, and this study clearly demonstrates that not only is coal the bedrock of our economy, but it is also a key component of our countries’ electric manufacturing and steelmaking future,” said West Virginia Coal Association President Chris Hamilton. 

The study, conducted by the West Virginia University Bureau for Business and Economics Research (BBER), shows that the mining industry alone spends more than $10.6 billion on wages nationally and coal operators generated approximately $43.5 billion in economic activity in 2021.

The top ten coal producing states mined over 527 million short tons (mt) of coal in 2021 and are ranked by production as follows: WY (239.2 mt); WV (78.6 mt), PA (42.4 mt), IL (36.8 mt), MT (28.6 mt), KY (26.6 mt), ND (26.5 mt), IN (19.5 mt), TX (17.3 mt), and UT (12.3 mt). 

"Wyoming alone accounts for 45% of our nation’s coal production and when combined with the output of other western states, it becomes obvious that coal and coal-fired electric generation supports a big piece of America’s economy and job base” said Vern Lund, CEO of Navajo Transitional Energy Company (NTEC). “The number of high paying jobs associated with the production, the transportation sector and local suppliers and contractors is irreplaceable.” 

Joe Craft, CEO of Alliance Resources said, “Given the results of this study and the contribution of our nation’s coal plants to grid security and resiliency, and homeland security, it’s inconceivable that policy makers in Washington want to see these facilities close prematurely or transition away from the use of coal”. “Coal is a valuable feed stock for electricity manufacturing and provides a dependable revenue stream for a large number of state governments throughout America.”

Dr. John Deskins, Director of the West Virginia University Bureau of Business & Economic Research, said, “Despite production declines in recent years, coal remains a very important part of America's economy, as illustrated in our research. Coal continues to support a sizeable share of the nation's economic output and thousands of high-paying jobs.”  Dr. Deskins noted that the total economic impact of coal mining does not end at the mine – it goes far beyond the portal and upstream through the economy.

In 2021, coal-fired power plants across the U.S. generated 899.0 million megawatt hours of electricity. This activity generated $217.5 billion in direct and secondary outputs in the United States economy, resulting in a total employment impact of 245.3 thousand jobs and $33.3 billion in labor income impact.

Jimmy Brock, CEO of CONSOL Energy noted these facilities are responsible for a big piece of the economy as they continue to “provide low cost, uninterrupted power to tens of millions of families across the country”.  “Coal is the necessary ingredient that ensures the reliability of household and industrial power supplies which are required to maintain the quality of life we enjoy as Americans”.  

Rich Nolan, President, and CEO National Mining Association: “At a time when energy-driven inflation is weighing heavily on all Americans and electricity grids are being stretched to their limits, the coal industry’s significance has never been greater, providing high-paying direct and indirect jobs for Americans, economic benefits for communities across the country, the fuel for affordable and reliable energy, and metallurgical coal for steelmaking.”

America’s Coal Associations are supportive of an all of the above energy strategy but believes the United States should not be trading one energy job for another or unnecessarily shorten the life of these foundational contributors to our economy and industrial job base. 

Highlights from the study include: 

  • Coal mining and coal-fired electric power generated approximately $261 billion in total economic activity in the U.S. in 2021. 
  • Coal mining and coal-fired electric power generation supported nearly 381,000 jobs nationally with 29,674 jobs in WV, 15,852 in IN, 13,735 in TX, 13,418 in IL, 12,266 in KY 7,027 in UT, and 3,895 in MT. 
  • Coal mining and coal-fired electric power generation provided around $43.8 billion in employee compensation. Coal mining offers some of the highest average annual wages among all industries.
  • Coal mining and coal-fired electric power generated nearly $8.1 billion in state and local tax revenue nationally.

America’s Coal Associations include Alabama Mining Association, Kentucky Coal Association, Illinois Coal Association, Ohio Coal Association, Pennsylvania Coal Alliance, Reliable Energy Inc., Rocky Mountain Mining Institute, Texas Mining and Reclamation Association, Montana Coal Association, Utah Mining Association, Wyoming Mining Association, and National Mining Association.  

For information or to request a copy of the full report, please contact Chris Hamilton at the West Virginia Coal Association, (304) 342-4153