February non-farm job gains not enough to turn Tri-Cities employment trend higher

TRI NF jobs PPTri-Cities employers added 600 non-farm jobs in February compared to totals from the same month last year.

All growth was in the four-county Kingsport-Bristol MSA.

It’s the third straight month job growth has been positive for the region.

That’s a good sign. But three months of small gains on the heels of 17 straight months of job losses isn’t enough to turn the Tri-Cities labor market trend line.  Employers would need to add over 4,000 jobs to get the area’s labor market back to the level it was before the April 2012 slide began. Compared to a February 2008 pre-recession benchmark the Tri-Cities is down 8,700 non-farm jobs.

Tri NF jobs 3 mo moving PPLabor market activity has been more positive in the north half of the region. The four-county Kingsport-Bristol MSA has added jobs for the last 10 months. But that growth wasn’t strong enough to make up for 14 straight months of year-over-year job losses in the three-county Johnson City MSA.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ payroll report tells basically the same trend story as the household employment story.  A fourth quarter analysis of the market by ETSU Economist Steb Hipple showed employment loss during that three-month period was the largest since the recession. “Based on the fourth quarter performance, the economic outlook for the new year has become more uncertain.  The national economy, even if it returns to the slow growth path of the past two years, will still not be able to create jobs at a meaningful level.  Millions of workers will remain outside of the labor force and suffer the consequences of long-term unemployment.  The Tri-Cities economy has been looking to growth in the U.S. economy to improve regional business activity.  This might be a long wait,” he said.

Tri nf jobs # gained lost PP

Year-over-year non-farm job gains, losses in the Kingsport-Bristol and Johnson City MSAs and the Tri-Cities.

The slight difference between the household and payroll surveys is due to the type data and source of each. The household survey focuses on how many people have jobs – employment – the labor force and the number of people looking for jobs. The payroll report is a survey of employers. It’s the larger of the two surveys and many analyst consider it the richest data source.  While the payroll report offers insights on industry sectors it does not include many self-employed entrepreneurs and farm workers.

The Great Recession didn’t hit the Tri-Cities until 2009, and the local labor market recovery began taking hold in the summer of 2010. While the national economy was still struggling, the Tri-Cities saw almost two years of non-farm job growth as measured on a year-over-year comparison. During most of that period the local job creation rate outperformed the national rate.  But that changed in the summer of 2012 when the jobs picture turned negative and continued downward for 17 months.

That decline turned into a 0.3% gain in December. The same percentage gain was posted for January and February.  Since that’s based on preliminary non-seasonally adjusted numbers expect some revisions next month.

MTSU’s most current jobs heat chart shows the strongest year-over-year Kingsport-Bristol growth in transportation and utilities,  wholesale trade, professional, business services, leisure, and hospitality.

Sectors showing losses are manufacturing, retail trade, and education and health services.

The Johnson City MSA is showing jobs growth in the professional and business services, retail trade, financial activities and leisure and health sectors.

February’s year-over-year comparison by industry show the biggest loss in the MSA’s largest jobs provided – government.  Manufacturing also shows a jobs loss.

Seven of the 12 industry sectors were flat in February.








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