Despite promises to reinvigorate the coal industry, Kentucky has fewer coal jobs today than when President Donald Trump took office two years ago.
The Lexington Herald-Leader reports coal employment averaged 6,550 in Kentucky in the first quarter of 2017 when Trump was sworn in, according to the state Energy and Environment Cabinet. The estimated average in the July-through-September quarter this year was 6,381.
The number of coal jobs has gone up and down from quarter to quarter in Kentucky, but overall there has been no sustained increase. Numbers have remained far below 2011 when Kentucky coal jobs topped 18,000.
"It ain't happened like they said it would," said Martin County Judge-Executive Kelly Callaham.
Callaham said one mine has recently hired some people in Martin County. Employment in the most recent quarter stood at 61, compared to more than 200 in early 2017, according to state records.
Nationally, there were about 1,900 more coal jobs in October than when Trump took office. One reason Kentucky hasn't seen an uptick is because the state has relatively little of the type of coal used in making steel. Metallurgical coal has been in demand overseas, and states with more of it, like West Virginia, have seen an increase in mining jobs.
Coal employment in Kentucky has been stable since mid-2016, fluctuating between 6,300 and 6,600 jobs, according to the cabinet's reports. The industry credits Trump for stopping the big job losses that began in 2012.
"I think that we definitely would've gone done further," said Tyler White, president of the Kentucky Coal Association.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration projections through 2040 show a gradual decrease in production in Central Appalachia, the region that includes eastern Kentucky. But production is expected to increase in the region that includes western Kentucky.
Studies have shown the biggest factor in the decline of coal is the rise in natural gas.