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A coal-fired power plant outside Delta, Utah. Photo: George Frey/Getty Images

2018 was the second-highest year for retirements of coal-fired power plants in the U.S. In the wake of plant closures, some communities are converting these facilities into production sites for lower-carbon energy sources.

Why it matters: Coal-fired plants have long been seen as economic boons for rural counties, despite the harmful effects of their pollution on local residents. Converting them can both mitigate job losses and help meet energy demands more sustainably.

Coal-fired electricity generation initially created jobs and allowed for modest improvements in health and quality of life, largely due to increased electricity access, according to a study from Carnegie Mellon and the University of Montreal.

  • However, the plants' long-term effects include elevated air pollution, higher infant mortality rates and lower housing values.

What's happening:

Between the lines: These facility conversions could attract younger workers and their families, which would bolster school attendance, support local businesses and preserve many of the plants' original benefits, but without the pollution.

What we're watching: Successful conversion projects will need to continue focusing on reskilling plant employees to avoid disrupting local economies.

Karen Clay is a professor of economics and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College and Tepper School of Business.

Go deeper

U.S. cites Ukrainian oligarch for involvement "in significant corruption"

State Secretary Antony Blinken on Friday designated former Ukrainian public official Ihor Kolomoyskyy as an individual involved "in significant corruption."

Why it matters: The designation prohibits Kolomoysky and his immediate family from traveling to the U.S. and signals that the Biden administration will help Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in his fight against oligarchs and entrenched corruption. U.S. authorities view Kolomoyskyy as among the most powerful of the oligarchs.

U.S. economy added 379,000 jobs in February

Data: FRED; Chart: Axios Visuals

The economy added 379,000 jobs in February, while the unemployment rate dropped from 6.3% to 6.2%, the Labor Department said on Friday.

Why it matters: The first Biden-era jobs report shows hiring surged as coronavirus cases eased — though a full recovery remains far off. Economists expected the economy to add roughly 182,000 jobs last month, after adding a paltry 49,000 in January.

This story is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Workers are getting a really bad deal

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

This week's spate of data highlighted the difficulties Americans who have lost their jobs have had bouncing back from the coronavirus pandemic, and just how much those who have managed to keep their jobs have been working.

What's happening: The Labor Department reported Thursday that the productivity of American workers fell by a revised 4.2% annual rate in the fourth quarter, the largest decline in 39 years.