Tri-Cities employers add jobs in September – but not all the news is pretty


September’s jobs report had some good, some bad and some ugly news for the Tri-Cities.

The good news is preliminary adjusted and nonadjusted numbers showed the employers adding jobs.

YoY changeHere are the Bureau or Labor’s adjusted September nonfarm job totals compared to August. This is the number used by most reporters when they talk about how many jobs were added or lost each time the monthly reports are issued:

  • Johnson City MSA up 500 from August.
  • Kingsport-Bristol up 600 from August.

These are preliminary numbers are almost always adjusted up or down in the following month’s report.

The non-adjusted numbers compared to August totals show:

  • Johnson City MSA employers added 1,400 jobs in September. The year-to-year total is up 100.
  • Kingsport-Bristol MSA employers added 900 jobs in September. The year-to-year total is also up 100.

Like the adjusted job totals, the nonadjusted numbers are preliminary and will see some adjustments when the October reports are issued.

When you apply a three-month moving average to take some of the noise out of the nonadjusted nonfarm numbers, jobs were up 1% in both Tri-Cities MSAs when compared to September 2013. Last month Kingsport-Bristol was negative on this metric while Johnson City was flat. Since the first of the year both MSAs have been  positive in all but one month’s year-to-year comparison. The gains are  small but it’s hopefully a sign that the local job market is beginning to follow the national economy by adding jobs.

These numbers are from the BLS’s monthly survey or employers. It’s the larger of the two labor market reports and focuses on jobs and where they are located. The data is not broken down below the MSA level. The second report focuses on employment. It looks at how many people are employed and how many are looking for jobs and is available for cities and counties. This is the report used for unemployment rates and is scheduled for release later this week.

So what’s the bad news?

The Tri-Cities had about 6,400 fewer nonfarm jobs in September than it did in September 2008 – the year before the Great Recession hit the local economy.

Here’s how those losses – and some gains – stack up on the regional level.

  • Mining, logging and construction, down 1,000 (most of these were construction jobs).
  • Manufacturing – down 4,700. The pain is shared almost equally between the Johnson City MAS – down 2,200- and Kingsport-Bristol – down 2,500.
  • Wholesale trade – down 100. Kingsport-Bristol added 300 jobs in this sector, but there were 400 job losses in the Johnson City MSA.
  • Retail trade – down 900. The lion’s share of these losses is in Kingsport-Bristol – 800.
  • Transportation and utilities – up 100. The jobs total is up 100 because 400 jobs were added in Kingsport-Bristol while 300 were lost in the Johnson City MSA.
  • Information – down 1,400. Sector employers in the Johnson City MSA have eliminated 1,000 jobs since September 2008 while Kingsport-Bristol employers cut 400.
  • Financial activities – down 1,700. Most of the losses – 1,100 – were in the Johnson City MSA.
  • Professional and business services – up 2,300. Most of the gains – 1,300 – were in the Johnson City MSA.
  • Education and health services – up 700. Most of the gains – 500 – were in the Johnson City MSA.
  • Leisure and hospitality – up 1,400. Again, most of the gains – 1,000 – were in the Johnson City MSA.
  • Other services – up 300. Most of the gains in this sector – 400 – came in Kingsport-Bristol. The Johnson City MSA lost 100 other service sector jobs.
  • Government – down 700. The Johnson City MSA had 800 fewer government sector jobs than it did in September 2008 while Kingsport-Bristol had 100 more.

Someone is going to notice that the job cuts and gains don’t tally out to the same number as the total nonfarm job losses. It’s off because the BLS report rounds the numbers and reports it in thousands of jobs.

The ugly news is many of the jobs that have been cut since the recession were in sectors where full-time jobs that paid well were the norm. At the same time many of those that have been added are not of the same quality. Many of them don’t pay as well and there’s more part-time and contract workers. The bottom line is the average private sector wage has taken a hit. The BLS report on that will be on this site in the next few days.

©Don Fenley






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