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

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