October employment up across the Tri-Cities, jobless rates drop, private sector wages stagnant


October’s job creation and employment reports for the Tri-Cities dished up a familiar diet of good and not-so-good news. However, there was an extra veneer of good-news icing on the cake. Tri-Cities employment increased for the second straight month, and the three-month moving average was higher after four straight monthly declines. The three-month moving average for non-farm jobs was up for the second straight month and jobs increased for the third straight month.


Johnson City MSA employers added jobs when you look at seasonally adjusted numbers. The not-so-good news is job creation was stagnant in the Kingsport-Bristol MSA.

The non-adjusted preliminary numbers are not that different. Johnson City saw more jobs than in September and a gain of 200 over October last year. The Kingsport-Bristol jobs total was unchanged from September and 200 better than the same month last year.

Job growth by sector was covered in an earlier post:


Kingsport-Bristol construction sees another month of growth, overall Tri-Cities labor market growth spotty 


A review of sites seeking workers show there are openings for good-paying jobs for those with specific benefits; however, they are outnumbered by lower-paying, part-time positions that have been a hallmark of the recovery from the Great Recession.

Unemployment rates in the three major cities, area counties and the MSAs were down.

Johnson City 6.0% -0.3%
Kingsport 6.5% -0.2%
Bristol TN 5.8% -0.7%
Carter 6.1% -0.6%
Hawkins 6.6% -0.6%
Johnson 6.7% -0.3%
Greene 8.0% -0.9%
Sullivan 6.1% -0.3%
Washington 5.9% -0.3%
Unicoi 6.9% -0.7%


The Tri-Cities labor force was up 0.4% compared to September and down 1.9% compared to October last year. Compared to its October 2008 pre-recession benchmark, the labor force is down 6%. ETSU economists Dr. Steb Hipple said in his Q3 analysis of the labor market employment has been falling for the past 10 quarters “causing many unsuccessful job seekers to leave the Tri-Cities and relocate to other areas. As a result, the level of unemployment declines, the unemployment rate falls and the labor force becomes smaller. Taken together, these are signs of a weak regional economy.”  An aging demographic is also a factor as workers retire and drop out of the labor force.

Employment was up across the region when compared to September’s totals. But when compared to the same month last year only Kingsport-Bristol and the Greeneville Micropolitian District had higher numbers.

Johnson City MSA 87,800 -480 798
Kingsport-Bristol 132,930 206 1069
Greeneville 26,170 1053 425
Bristol TN 11,650 -67 101
Johnson City 28,880 -153 267
Kingsport 119,500 -113 168

*Rounded totals.

The jobs and employment good news was blunted by another month of disappointing private sector wages.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Kingsport-Bristol weekly average was $617. That’s $4 a week better than the October last year. When adjusted for inflation using the October 2008 as a benchmark, Kingsport-Bristol workers had $4 a week more buying power. The 2013 annual weekly average is $623.

October’s Johnson City MSA weekly average of $583, is $2 lower than last year. When adjusted for inflation using the October 2008 average as a benchmark, Johnson City MSA private sector workers have $96 less buying power. The 2013 annual weekly average is $612.

October’s average weekly private sector wage across Tennessee MSAs and the U.S. was:

US $850
Nashville MSA $791
Knoxville MSA $750
Memphis MSA $741
Tennessee $720
Chattanooga MSA $716
Morristown MSA $642
Cleveland MSA $638
Jackson MSA $632
Kingsport-Bristol MSA $617
Johnson City MSA $583
Clarksville MSA $555
NF jobs

Months are color coded for quarters but the job totals and moving average is monthly.



Q3 analysis shows Tri-Cities still shedding jobs; October report shows jobless rates drop


ETSU Economist Steb Hipple’s Q3 labor market report shows the U.S. economy was creating new jobs at a significant rate while the Tri-Cities region continues to shed jobs.  Ultimately, the strength of the national economy will cause a turnaround in Tri-Cities business conditions.  

The question is when?”

According to Dr. Hipple’s analysis,   “ In the region, employment has been falling for the last 10 quarters, causing many unsuccessful job seekers to leave the Tri-Cities CSA and relocate to other areas.  As a result, the level of unemployment declines, the unemployment rate falls, and the labor force becomes smaller.  Taken together, these are signs of a weak regional economy.

               Looking ahead, the national economy is expected to continue its slow but steady growth.  Recent data on employment, production, and retailing are consistent with this scenario.  The Tri-Cities economy continues to be mired in a business slowdown which is shown in the regional data for employment and retail activity.  We continue to wait for the strengthening U.S. economy to provide a boost to business conditions in our region.


According to Dr. Hipple’s report, “Existing labor market trends dominated the Tri-Cities Consolidated Statistical Area (CSA) in the third quarter.  Compared to the same period in 2013, regional employment was lower by 1.7% to 218,244, while unemployment fell 10.3% to 16,664 as discouraged job seekers continued to leave the regional labor force.  The summer unemployment rate for the metro area was 7.1% (compared to 7.7% a year earlier).  With the labor force shrinking by 2.4%, the falling jobless rate is a sign of labor market weakness.

Among the twelve regional NAICS industry sectors, employment levels were higher in six, lower in six, and unchanged in none (compared to six, four, and two in the second quarter).  Job growth was led by construction, professional & business services, other services, and education & health services.  Smaller employment gains were reported by transport & utilities, and leisure & hospitality.  Major job losses occurred in retail trade, government, and manufacturing.  Small employment declines were reported by wholesale trade, information services, and financial services. Overall, the private sector in the metro area saw modest job growth.”

 His report for local cities says, “ During the July to September period, employment was lower in all three cities – falling 2.2% in Kingsport, 2.0% in Johnson City, and 1.2% in Bristol.  Matching the regional pattern, large numbers of unemployed workers are exiting the labor market in each city.  This has lowered the jobless counts, contracted the labor force, and reduced the unemployment rates.  The percent of workers unemployed was 7.0% in Kingsport, 7.1% in Johnson City, and 7.1% in Bristol.  As in the metro area, the lower rates in each city reflect labor market weakness.”

Dr. Hipple’s full Q3 report and data can be found by CLICKING HERE.

Meanwhile, preliminary city and county employment and jobs reports for October were also released today.

That Bureau Of Labor and Workforce and Bureau of Labor Statistics reports puts the current Tri-Cities unemployment rate at 6%, down 0.4% from September.

The preliminary non-adjusted unemployment rate for the Tri-Cities’ three largest cities is:

  • Bristol 5.5%, down 0.7% from September.
  • Johnson City 6%, down 0.3% from September.
  • Kingsport 6.5%, down 0.2% from September.

A full report on nonfarm jobs and employment for the cities will be filed in Core Data Friday.


Kingsport-Bristol construction sees another month of growth, overall Tri-Cities labor market growth spotty


Construction saw its second straight month of double-digit growth in October when compared to the same month last year. It was also the eight straight month of strong growth for that sector. But that’s the only shinning labor sector in this month’s heat charts.

The charts are produced by the folks at MTSU’s Business and Economic Research Center as a graphically easy way to review the labor market’s sectors and how they are performing on a year-over-year metric.

The best performing sector in the Johnson City MSA is leisure and hospitality. Other Services is also trending higher. That’s good news for the job total, but both sectors are among those with lower-paying jobs.

The Education and Health Services sector is also trending higher in Johnson City.

Kingsport-Bristol’s Transportation and Utilities sector is that market’s second best performer for the year.

The sector showing the biggest job losses in October in both MSA was Information.

When compared to the state heat chart, the Tri-Cities labor market shows considerably less growth.

The state heat chart can be found by CLICKING HERE.

The Kingsport-Bristol heat chart can be found by CLICKING HERE.

The Johnson City MSA heat chart can be found by CLICKING HERE.

Employment and jobs reports for cities and counties are due later this afternoon and will be one Core Date Friday.

October a weak month for new single-family home permits in Kingsport-Bristol, Johnson City MSAs


Talk to Tri-Cities builders and their mood is pretty much in line with the confidence tracked by the current National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index.

“Growing confidence among consumers is what’s fueling this optimism among builders,” said NAHB Chairman Kevin Kelly. “Members in many areas of the country continue to see increasing buyer traffic and signed contracts.”

“Low interest rates, affordable home prices and solid job creation are contributing to a steady housing recovery,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “After a slow start to the year, the HMI has remained above the 50-point benchmark for five consecutive months, and we expect the momentum to continue into 2015.”

Derived from a monthly survey that NAHB has been conducting for 30 years, the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as “good,” “fair” or “poor.” The survey also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as “high to very high,” “average” or “low to very low.” Scores from each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor.

All three HMI components increased in November.

But when it comes to permits for new privately owned, single-family homes the picture is cloudier in the Tri-Cities. And a drill-down shows how unevenly the new home sector is performing in the region.

The three-county Johnson City MSA is performing at about 60% of its pre-recession capacity. In October it saw 27 new permits down from 68 October last year and 60 the year before. Year to date the numbers look better. So far this year 406 permits have been pulled, six fewer than the first 10 months of last year.

The four-county Kingsport-Bristol MSA saw another month of flat performance.  Twenty-five permits were pulled, up from 20 last year. The October total for 2011 and 2012 was 25 permits. So far this year 257 permits have been pulled. That’s 20 fewer than last year and the lowest year-to-date total since 2004.The new home sector is performing at about half of its pre-recession capacity.

When you combine permit pulls for the seven-county Tri-Cities region the year-to-date total is 26 permits off last year’s pace at at almost 56% of pre-recession capacity.





%d bloggers like this: