The Appalachian Region's economy, once highly dependent on mining, forestry, agriculture, chemical industries, and heavy industry, has become more diversified in recent times, and now includes manufacturing and professional service industries. Appalachia has come a long way in the past five decades: its poverty rate, 31 percent in 1960, was 16.7 percent over the 2012–2016 period. The number of high-poverty counties in the Region (those with poverty rates more than 1.5 times the U.S. average) declined from 295 in 1960 to 93 over the 2012–2016 period.
But despite progress, Appalachia still does not enjoy the same economic vitality as the rest of the nation. Central Appalachia in particular still battles economic distress, with concentrated areas of high poverty, unemployment, poor health, and severe educational disparities. And recent economic data show that the Region has fared far worse in the current recession than the rest of the nation.