Tri-Cites sees more jobs and fewer people working in Nov., wages make small gain



The Tri-Cities entered the Great Recession late and came out early with strong employment gains. However, much of those gains were lost in 2012 when employers began shedding jobs and employment declined. September, October and November employment are improving from August. The broken red line is a three-month moving average. CLICK ON THE GRAPH FOR A LARGER VERSION



November saw nonfarm job creation increase for the third month when compared to the same months last year while employment posted its 31st straight monthly decline using the same metric.  November also saw a small increase in the average private sector wages in both the Kingsport-Bristol and Johnson City MSA.

Job losses and stubbornly stagnant wages have been an anchor on the region’s economy for almost two years. While there have been good gains in the area’s existing home sales market and recent sales tax collections and retail sales improvements the overall local overall has yet to see a significant trickle down from an improving national economy.  From a labor market perspective, the Tri-Cities’ labor sectors have  become so unrepresentative of the national labor market that it has – as ETSU economists Steb Hipple says – marched to its own drummer for a decade.

The area labor market continues a slow improvement that’s best illustrated by the chart.  The numbers are preliminary and will be adjusted in December’s report. Employment has been inching higher. While three months isn’t enough data to call it a trend the market’s performance is encouraging as we close in on December which will end Q4. That should offer some good news on comparisons because Q4 last year was terrible for job losses.

Jobs employed

One of the weaknesses of the local labor market has been the number of people leaving the labor force. Some of those workers became discouraged and dropped out, others are moving to other areas. At the same time the number of job openings is increasing.

November Bureau of Labor Statistics reports show private sector wage turned slightly higher in November in the Tri-Cities. The non-adjusted preliminary numbers show nonfarm jobs increased  while employment showed a small decrease.

The number of people with jobs in the Tri-Cities declined 531 from October’s total.  Compared to November last year, employment in the region was down 2,157. When compared to a pre-recession benchmark last month’s employment was 13,014 less than it was during November 2008.

The unemployment rate was unchanged from October at 6%.

Average private sector wages in both MSAs improved from October’s total.

November’s average was $13 a week better than last month and $1 less than November last year. When adjusted for inflation, the average private sector worker had $45 less buying power than the year before the recession.

The weekly average wage was up $11 from October in Kingsport-Bristol. It was also $15 a week better than it was during November last year. When adjusted for inflation, Kingsport-Bristol private sector workers had $15 a week more buying power than they did during November 2008.

The Northeast Tennessee wage rankings among state MSAs remained unchanged in November.

Johnson City has the lowest wage in the region and next to lowest in the state. Kingsport-Bristol was third to Morristown in the NE Tennessee. It also ranked as the third lowest in the state.  Knoxville workers were the best paid in NE Tennessee.

When compared to 2013 average wages in Kingsport-Bristol moved into and have remained in positive territory since August.  Johnson City wages managed a 0.05% gain during the first month of this year then sank for every month except October when they were at the 0% gain-loss point.

The employment report on the city level showed:

 Kingsport’s jobless rate 6.4%, down 0.1%

A drill-down to the city level shows Kingsport was the only major city where the unemployment rate declined in November.  The rate was down 0.01% but it wasn’t because more people were employed. According to the unadjusted Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers, the number of people with a job declined from October but the decline in the labor force drove the jobless rate down. Compared to November last year, 226 fewer people reported they were employed when compared to November last year.  Compared to the prerecession benchmark Kingsport employer is up 1,486. It’s the only major city in the area where that’s the case.

Johnson City unemployment 6.1%, up 0.1%

Employment took a small dip in November and pushed the jobless rate to 6.1%, up 0.01% from October. Compared to November last year employment was down by 356. Compared to the pre-recession benchmark 1,764 fewer people had jobs.

Bristol jobless rate 5.9%, up 0.1%

Bristol employment saw the same small decline as other major city labor markets in November. Compared to November last year 140 fewer people had jobs. Compared to the pre-recession benchmark, 436 people reported they had jobs.

November’s average unadjusted private sector weekly wage totals were:

US   –   $853

Nashville MSA –  $821

Knoxville MSA -$754

Memphis MSA – $762

Tennessee –  $740

Chattanooga MSA – $734

Morristown MSA – $671

Cleveland MSA – $616

Jackson MSA – $663

Kingsport-Bristol MSA – $630

Johnson City MSA – $598

Clarksville MSA –  $555

Tri-Cities Nov. year-over-year sales tax collections gain leads NE Tenn.

The Tri-Cities lead NE Tennessee in year-over-year sales tax collections in November.

According to MTSU’s Business and Economic Research Center, seasonally adjusted collections in Kingsport were up 5.4% from November last year.

Johnson City MSA collections were up 4.4%.

Morristown collections were up 2.9%.

Knoxville collections were up 1.8%.

Nashville and Chattanooga saw the largest increase and all of the state’s MSAs were positive for the month.

Statewide collections were 7.2% higher in November than the same month last year.

Although Kingsport-Bristol’s year-over-year performance has seen greater gains than the Johnson City MSA in the past two months it has been more volatile this year. Since the first of the year its performance has been negative four months compared to three in Johnson City.

Johnson City’s collections have been positive for the past six month.

When compared to October’s strong collections gains, all three NE Tennessee MSA were down last month.

Knoxville, down 4.6%.

Kingsport-Bristol, down 2.5%.

Morristown, down 2.7%.

Johnson City, down 0.3%.

Tri-Cities see best retail performance in two years, Bristol sales increase leads area

Tri-Cities retail activity made a dramatic improvement in the third quarter.

ETSU economist Dr. Steb Hipple said, “it was the best retail performance in two years.”

According to his Q3 retail sales report, “On a year-to-year basis, Bristol sales increased 7.3% to $269 million, while Johnson City sales were up 5.1% to $483 million, and Kingsport sales rose 2.9% to $398 million.  Adjusted for inflation, sales volume was up 5.4% in Bristol, 3.3% in Johnson City, and 1.1% in Kingsport.  In comparison, retail activity increased 3.2% in the metro area, 4.6% in Tennessee and 2.8% in the United States.”
Looking at the metropolitan areas, the report says, “  During the third quarter, retailers across the Tri-Cities Combined Statistical Area (CSA) enjoyed their best retail performance since the summer of 2011.  Dollar sales rose by 5.0% to $1,750 million, while inflation adjusted sales volume increased 3.2%.  This is a welcome change after two years of declining real sales.  All seven metro counties participated in the turnaround as both dollar sales and sales volume saw significant gains.  The best performance occurred in Hawkins County, followed by Scott, Unicoi, Carter, Sullivan, Washington (VA), and Washington (TN) counties.”

In his analysis of the report, Dr. Hipple wrote, “ The summer months saw a welcome turnaround in retail performance in the Tri-Cities area, as well as the best sales growth in the region and the state since early 2012.  The national retail expansion continued unabated after nearly five years of real growth.  Overall, this is the best retailing report in over two years.

“In the Tri-Cities area, we are seeing a “doughnut” pattern in retail growth, where the outlying CSA counties have larger increases than the urban centers.  (The three Tri-Cities accounted for 65.7% of CSA retail activity in the third quarter.)  In Bristol, all of the retail growth occurred on the Bristol Tennessee side, thanks to the new Pinnacle shopping center.


“The question is whether these good conditions can continue.  At the national level, the answer is clearly a “yes.”  Employment and production in the United States are expanding, and partial fourth quarter data show continued growth in retail sales volume.  The outlook is for a very good holiday shopping season.

The big “if” is in the Tri-Cities area.  The third quarter labor market report showed further declines in regional employment, continuing a two-year downward trend in jobs, production, and income.  From this perspective, the strong rebound in third quarter retailing was unexpected.  To continue this regional improvement in sales performance, we will need to see significant levels of new job creation in the near future as well.”

Dr. Hipple’s full report and data can be found at

Americans are 40% poorer than before the recession

The Great Recession is officially over, but Americans are still 40% poorer today than they were in 2007, the year before the global financial crisis.

The net worth of American families — the difference between the values of their assets, including homes and investments, and liabilities — fell to $81,400 in 2013, down slightly from $82,300 in 2010, but a long way off the $135,700 in 2007, according to a new report released on Friday by the nonprofit think-tank Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C.

“The Great Recession, fueled by the crises in the housing and financial markets, was universally hard on the net worth of American families,” the report found.

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