(Bloomberg Opinion) — In 1923 there were 862,536 coal miners in the U.S., about 2% of the country’s total workforce. These days, their ranks are much thinner. As the Washington Post uncharitably pointed out in 2017, more people now work at Arby’s than in the U.S. coal mining industry.
This did not stop Donald Trump from making the revival of coal mining a major plank of his presidential campaign, and a focus of his efforts after he took office. And sure enough, the number of coal mining jobs did stop falling in 2017.
There are indications, though, that the decline is about to resume. Before the 2000s, job losses in coal mining were mainly about better mining equipment and the rise of less-labor-intensive above-ground