Chris Schulz Published

Appalachia, W.Va. Improving Economically According To Federal Report 

A stone and masonry pillar attacked to wood beams dominates the foreground left of the frame. Beyond in the midground can be seen the lush, green canopies of trees before, in the background, a river can be seen glistening between the troughs of two rolling ridges of rounded, forested hills. In the far background the rolling, forested hills can be seen to continue into a hazy, blue-grey sky that dominates the top of frame.
The view from Cooper's Rock into the Cheat River valley below on June 23, 2042.
Chris Schulz/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Three West Virginia counties that were previously ranked as “distressed” by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) have improved enough to move out of that dire category.

The 2025 report shows 15 West Virginia counties that rank as distressed, down from 18 last year.

Each year ARC compares 423 counties across the Appalachian region – from New York to Mississippi – to the national average. Counties are then ranked into five categories: distressed, at risk, transitional, competitive and attainment. The designations are used to determine the match requirements for ARC grants, as well as research topics and investment strategies targeting resources to the region’s most distressed areas.

This year, 77 counties across the region are ranked as distressed. That’s the lowest number of distressed counties recorded in the 19 years since ARC began its indexing system. 

Distressed counties are the most economically depressed counties and they rank in the worst 10 percent of the nation’s counties.

Another 14 West Virginia counties are considered at-risk. The majority of West Virginia counties – 26 – rank as transitional, which means they’re seen as transitioning from a strong to a weak economy or from a weak to a strong one, and rank around the average for the nation’s counties. 

Only Jefferson County ranked as competitive or considered able to compete in the national economy. No county in West Virginia achieved attainment status. 

Rankings are determined by median income, poverty rate and the three-year average unemployment rate.

ARC is an economic development partnership entity of the federal government and 13 state governments and has been computing its index-based county economic classification annually since 2007.