Editorials, Opinion

No one hates their jobs more than West Virginia workers

Data released in March suggests that West Virginians hate their jobs more than anyone else in the nation. We’re not surprised.

First, about the data: The career coaching organization Cultivated Career collected 260,000 geotagged posts from X (Twitter) that mentioned certain key words, e.g. “I hate my job” or “need a new job.” The geotag contains information about where the post was made — and of the tweets analyzed, more of them came from West Virginia than any other state.

The largest industries (by employment) in the state are education and health services; trade, transportation and utilities; and leisure and hospitality. Think for a moment about those jobs and our social and economic climate over the last few years.

Health care workers bore the brunt of the pandemic. They had to face what, at the time, was an unknown virus that was killing and disabling people at horrifying rates. For a while, they were hailed as heroes. Then conspiracy theories about COVID, its treatment and its prevention, including masks and vaccines, spread faster than the virus, and suddenly health care workers were the targets of verbal and even physical abuse. Between the hard work, the insane hours — and the later harassment — they burnt out and quit. There are still lingering shortages.

Educators were also hailed during the early years of the pandemic, until the culture wars took hold. Then classrooms became battlegrounds and educators became “the enemy” as fights were picked over everything from masks in schools, to gender identity, to the non-existent presence of critical race theory. Student behavior became increasingly unruly and parents’ behavior toward teachers wasn’t much better. Lawmakers began to micromanage classrooms. They have also been quitting or retiring in droves and fewer people are pursuing careers in education. 

Truckers and delivery drivers work long days, and the long-haul drivers can go weeks without seeing friends or family. The people who work in utilities frequently find themselves out in the elements, working to restore power or water connectivity in, or just after, severe weather.

As for government employees … We all know what the political climate is like right now.

And it’s long been known that customer-facing jobs — retail, food service, hospitality — can be absolutely miserable.  The pay is often low, the schedules can be tough and there can be little upward mobility. At a time when the cost of living has far outpaced wages, that alone is enough reason to hate a job. Plus, these individuals often take the brunt of people’s frustrations and, for some reason, after pandemic closures lifted, behavior toward retail, food service and hospitality workers got even worse. The turnover rate is high, and if the continued presence of hiring signs in many storefronts is any indication, people have decided the pay isn’t worth the misery.

Is this data irrefutable proof that West Virginians do, in fact, hate their jobs more than anyone else? Not exactly, but it should give our state’s leaders something to consider. The culture wars perpetuated by certain lawmakers and politicians have done nothing to make the conditions for West Virginia workers better — and in the case of health care workers and educators, have only made things worse. Until the state puts concerted effort into improving conditions for workers and diversifying the state’s economy, people will continue to leave West Virginia en masse.