WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) — To put it lightly, the 2020s haven’t been the most financially stable.

The dollars in our wallet aren’t worth as much as they used to be.

So two and a half years out from COVID, is West Virginia in the green?

Well, the answer is complicated.

All this morning, financial advisors, business professors and energy insiders touched on our triumphs and our struggles.

First the good: most of the 95 thousand jobs we lost from the virus are now back.

The unemployment rate is historically low, and our employment performance is about on track with the rest of the country.

The reality is, the market outlook has been challenging in ’22 but we actually see a pretty positive outlook for ’23.

David McKinley, President and Chief Investment Officer, McKinley Carter Wealth Services

But the unemployment rate doesn’t tell the whole story.

West Virginia’s participation in the labor force is still the lowest in the U.S. among those 25 to 54.

Speakers say that, along with the Mountain State’s poor health outcomes and low rate of college graduates, are among the factors holding us back.

That’s on top of the post-shutdown effects that refuse to go away.

One of the biggest things I think we’re hearing right now from a lot of business owners is workforce. Getting people to come in who want to do the job, who are equipped to do that job…getting people to visit your businesses again, getting people to come to your events again.

Laurie Conway, Marketing and Communications Director, Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce

One positive note for the Ohio Valley is that our area is identified as a growth center.

Ohio and Marshall Counties are expected to build up their employment more than other regions over the next few years.

But the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce is still committed to championing businesses across the river.

We view this as a regional approach. If things are good in Belmont County, that’s good for Wheeling. And if things are good for Marshall County, that’s also good for Wheeling.

Laurie Conway, Marketing and Communications Director, Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce

We’re still a couple of thousand jobs away from recovering all the pandemic loss.

But West Virginia is almost there, with Ohio County to help put it over the top.

With coal on the decline, speakers pointed out other industries where West Virginia can make up the difference.

Those include outdoor recreation, chemical manufacturing, and rare earth minerals for computer chips.