By Erin Savage
Coal industry data from the end of 2017 is still trickling in, but the industry does not appear to have made major gains. For several years, the Energy Information Administration has predicted coal production would stabilize, following its steep decline between 2014 and 2016.
Coal production increased in 2017, due largely to a robust export market linked to storm-damaged Australian ports and decreased Chinese production. These factors contributed to a 70 percent increase in United States coal exports in the first 10 months of 2017 from 2016, bringing exports back to a level seen in 2014.
Based on Mining Safety and Health Administration publicly available data, coal production across the nation increased approximately 9.6 percent during the first three quarters of 2017 compared to 2016. But for the mines reporting fourth quarter data so far, production is down about 3.6 percent compared to fourth quarter 2016.
Based on MSHA data from the first three quarters of 2017 and preliminary numbers for the fourth quarter, coal employment increased by 771 jobs, or 1.4 percent, compared to 2016, but is still well below employment seen in the decade prior to 2016.
The 4 West Mine in Pennsylvania recently announced plans to close by the middle of 2018, which will result in a loss of 370 jobs.
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