Reporters Bill Bishop and Tim Marema use Bureau of Economic Analysis data to point out that in Wise County, where Gardner visited, coal makes up only 11.5 percent of employment. In Kentucky’s largest coal-producing counties, coal makes up between 10 and 20 percent of jobs, as seen in this chart.
“What’s interesting,” say Bishop and Marema, “is how the national press constantly overstates the importance of coal to the economies of eastern coal states.” They write:
On top of mechanization are newer trends that will only accelerate this employment decline: the rising competitiveness of increasingly cheaper and/or preferred alternatives, including coal from other regions, natural gas, and renewable energy; the diminishing coal reserves in Central Appalachia; and the reality of greater protections from coal’s health and environmental impacts. Read more here and here.