In 2014, the last year for which statistics are available, the total number of jobs throughout the entire coal industry in the U.S. was 76,572, including office workers, sales staff and all of the other individuals who work at coal-mining companies.
The Whole Foods company alone employs 72,650.
To put it in further perspective, the coal industry falls somewhere between the economic clout of travel agencies and the bowling industry, two other sectors that are on a downward trajectory in terms of overall employment.
Looking at the above list, it strikes me that none of the other industries highlighted pose anything like the health risk to its employees that comes with coal-mining, or anywhere near the power to destroy the environment of all for the benefit of the few. Some will argue that skiing has a pretty bad environmental record (golf, too), but its impact is nothing like coal’s.
The coal industry gets the focus though, because it has been the subject of government regulation, and because Hillary Clinton has been unwise enough to disparage it. It is therefore the poster-industry for the “How Democrats Want To Destroy America” contingent, and the focus of various demagogues, most notably Donald Trump. Coal also has the advantage of being geographically focused in a small region, so if you want to target a certain group of electors, coal is a good bet.
Of course, neither government regulation or Hillary Clinton are actually responsible for the long downward trend in coal jobs – it’s automation. It’s been happening since 1920.
And, looking to the future, automation is only going to get a lot better still. For a frightening peek at what robots already can do, check this:
There is nothing Trump can or will do to bring more jobs to the coal industry, although I’m confident he will be able to resume the environmental destruction.