Laid-off miner faces four-hour commute to new factory job

Justin Johnson stands with his wife Christy outside an idled coal mine in eastern Kentucky. He now commutes four hours to a factory job in northern Kentucky and sees his family on weekends. (Kristen Lowry/Kentucky Today)

Justin Johnson stands with his wife Christy outside an idled coal mine in eastern Kentucky. He now commutes four hours to a factory job in northern Kentucky and sees his family on weekends. (Kristen Lowry/Kentucky Today)

For eight years, Justin Johnson worked as an electrician in the coal mines, and life was good. He made a good living, got married. He and his wife, Christy, bought a house and had two children.

But in 2011, the industry began a steady decline. Mines began closing. Companies began layoffs.

Johnson held on until September of 2013, when he was laid off from his job. He was offered a transfer to Illinois, but he didn’t want to leave Kentucky.

After 18 months of unemployment, he got a job at the Dow Corning Corp. plant in Carrollton, working as an electrician.

Johnson isn’t alone in leaving Kentucky’s mountain region to find work. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, thousands have left eastern Kentucky to look for work elsewhere. Between 2010 and 2014, more than 7,000 people have migrated out.

Read the rest of Kristen Lowry’s second part of a three-part series on coal and the eastern Kentucky economy at Kentucky Today.

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