More people looking for fewer jobs in June; Kingsport jobless rate at 26-month high


More people were looking for fewer jobs in Kingsport last month sending the unemployment rate to a 26-month high of 9%.

According to the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development there were 19,150 jobs in Kingsport during June – one fewer than in May. So far this year employers have added 10 jobs. When compared to June 2012, the jobs total is down by 351.

Kingsport June 2013PPP

Number of jobs in Kingsport June 2008 – June 2013.
Data source: Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The number of jobs in the Model City has been shrinking for 15 straight months when compared to the same month of the previous year. The jobs contraction is region wide and has driven job totals in Bristol and Johnson City below pre-recession levels. Kingsport has fared better in that comparison. It has 1,015 more jobs than it did in June 2008 – the year before the recession hit here.

A big issue in the Kingsport jobs market is underemployment and qualifications. Employers are looking outside the area for workers because  they say they can’t find enough people with the needed skills locally. There are currently 456 job openings listed for the Kingsport area at JobsforTN online.

Employers in Bristol added two jobs in June. That city’s unemployment rate increased to 8.3% – the highest it’s been October 2011. Bristol had 218 fewer jobs in June than it did a year ago. When compared to June, 2008 the city has lost 133 jobs.

Johnson City’s suffered most in June. Its unemployment rate increased to 8.3%, the highest it has been since August, 2011.

Johnson City’s employers cut 544 jobs from May’s total. So far this year the city’s job total is 390 below where it started the year. When compared to June last year, the job count is down 833. The city’s job total in June was 988 less than its pre-recession level.

Bureau of Labor Statistics reports show Kingsport – and the other labor markets in the Tri-Cities – began adding new jobs at a furious pace after hitting a recession low point in December 2009. The local job growth rate as better than the national rate and pulled the region out of the recession earlier than the rest of the nation.

But that growth rate ran out of steam in November 2011. That’s when the Model City’s job total began slipping. There was also a big data revision of Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers this year that showed the region’s labor markets lost more jobs during the recession and didn’t add as many jobs as previously reported. That revision changed the total, but not the pattern of job gains and losses.

During June there were 10 jobs for every person listed as unemployed in Kingsport. Before the recession the ratio was better than 20-to-1. This ratio is a key to tracking a disproportionate number of people looking for jobs in the Model City. The relationship between jobs and the number of people looking for work began increasing in 2008 before the local labor market entered the recession. ETSU Economist Dr. Steb Hipple has explained what happened this way: When the recession was ravaging labor markets elsewhere former residents who lost their jobs came home to weather the tough times with parents and relatives. Some found jobs, but many of them joined the ranks of local residents looking for a job.

That’s still a factor in the overall job market picture. Some of those people have found jobs as the jobs picture began improving elsewhere and left the area. However there are still about 900 more people in Kingsport looking for job than there were in a “normal” pre-recession labor market.  A similar situation exists in Johnson City and Bristol.

June’s jobs-to-jobless ratio in Johnson City was 11-to-1 compared to pre-recession ratio of 19-to-1.

Bristol’s ratio in June was 11-to-1 compared to 20-to-1 pre-recession level.

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