|Norfolk Southern GE C44-9W's with an empty coal train in Bluefield, West Virginia|
Walmart has been the biggest employer in the state since 1998, but it seems it now employs more people than coal mines collectively. As well as not being good news for mine workers, it's not good news for the railroads either as they have traditionally hauled the lion's share of the commodity to users.
According to Time magazine:-
"U.S. mines produced about 900 million tons of coal last year, a nearly 25% decline since 2008 and the lowest amount of production since 1986, according to data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA). The change has come as energy companies have built up their natural gas and renewable capacity. The decline in coal production has led the industry to hemorrhage workers, with 50,000 coal-related jobs lost between 2008 and 2012, according to a study from last year. And that’s just the latest in a downward slope in the industry since the 1980s due to mechanization that displaced human labor. The coal mining industry directly employed more than 140,000 in 1989 and and only 85,000 a decade later, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report."