Tri-Cities employment declines in December


Trend charts at bottom of page

Tri-Cities employment gave up Oct.-Nov. gains in December. The region’s unemployment rate increased to 6.1% as the number of people with jobs posted its 33 straight monthly year-over-year decline.

Employment declined by 3,500 last year while the labor force was down 5,104.

Those are preliminary unadjusted numbers and reflect revised Oct. and Nov. totals in the current Bureau of Labor Statistics employment report.

A different dynamic played out in the area’s major cities as employment rates dropped in Bristol and Johnson City while increasing in Kingsport.

Kingsport employment trending lower

  • Employment rate 6.7%, up 0.3% from Nov.
  • 24th straight month the year-over-year employment metric has declined.
  • Annual preliminary employment loss was 297 while the labor force declined by 344.

Johnson City gives up Oct.-Nov. gains

  • Unemployment rate 6%, down 0.1% from Nov.
  • 31st straight month the year-over-year employment metric has declined.
  • Annual preliminary employment loss was 731 while the labor force declined by 798.

Bristol back to Sept. level

  • Unemployment rate 5.7%, down 0.2% from Nov.
  • – 35th straight month the year-over-year employment metric has declined.
  • Annual preliminary employment loss was 171 while the labor force declined by 345.

Tri-Cities employment

Kingsport employment


JC employment

Bristol employment

Tri-Cities employers add jobs in 2014, not distributed evenly


Trend charts at the bottom of the page

Tri-Cities employers added 500 jobs during 2014, but the gains were not even across the area’s two MSAs. All came in the four-county Kingsport-Bristol MSA and losses in the three-county Johnson City MSA cut those gains by roughly half.

Kingsport-Bristol has added jobs every month since August and the raw numbers exceed the three-month moving average.  The Johnson City MSA was following the same pattern until December’s 400 jobs loss.

The preliminary unadjusted Bureau of Labor Statistics payroll survey shows a gain of 500 jobs on the year-over-year metric. That number includes revisions in Nov. data. The seasonally adjusted number puts it at 400 jobs.

A drill-down by job sectors show:

Mining and construction

  • A top job producer for the region in 2014. When the monthly ebb and flow of gains and losses are tallied Kingsport-Bristol gained 800 jobs while the Johnson City MSA lost 200.


  • This sector continued contracting in 2014. The Johnson City MSA’s annual tally was a 100 job loss, which was doubled in Kingsport-Bristol.

Wholesale trade

  • Both MSAs saw an annual net gain of 100 jobs.

Retail trade

  • Like manufacturing the retail trade sector is seeing some structural change. It was flat in the Johnson City MSA while Kingsport-Bristol saw an annual net loss of 300 jobs.

Transportation and utilities

-Kingsport-Bristol saw an annual gain of 100 jobs while the sector’s total was flat in the Johnson City MSA.


  • Kingsport-Bristol’s annual tally put the sector flat for the year, but there were 200 job losses in the Johnson City MSA during the year.

Financial activities

  • Both MSAs had an annual net loss of 100 jobs in this sector.

Professional and business services

  • Kingsport-Bristol had a gain of 200 jobs during the year. The Johnson City MSA added 100.

Education and health services

  • This sector was flat for the year. Kingsport-Bristol saw an annual gain of 100 jobs while the Johnson City MSA lost 100.

Leisure and hospitality

  • This sector was the biggest job producer in the Johnson City MSA with an annual job gain of 400. Kingsport-Bristol added 100 jobs.

Other services

  • Kingsport-Bristol had an annual net loss of 200 jobs in the sector while the Johnson City MSA was flat.


  • Johnson City’s largest job provider showed an annual net loss of 500 jobs during 2014 while the Kingsport-Bristol sector added 200 jobs.

Tri-ities nonfarm jobs

kb jobs


JC Jobs








December Kingsport-Bristol average wage up, down in Johnson City


Trend charts at the bottom of the story.

Private sector wages in the Kingsport-Bristol were higher in December that the same month last year but rate trend declined after two monthly increases.

Johnson City MSA private sector workers saw their December average weekly wage decline compared to December last year. It was also the third straight month the annual year-over-year rate trend declined after the October average was even with the October 2013 average.

The average weekly wage in Johnson City has been down for 29 of the past 32 months when compared to the same month of the previous year.  When adjusted for inflation against a 2008 pre-recession benchmark, Johnson City private sector workers have $60 week less buying power.

Private sector workers in Kingsport-Bristol have $5 a week more buying power than they did when December’s average is adjusted for inflation with the 2008 pre-recession benchmark.

December’s weekly averages are preliminary unofficial totals and will be revised in next month report. Then 2014 annual average wage has not been released, yet.

The 2013 annual average in Johnson City was $612 a week. That average was a 3.6% decline from 2012 which saw a 3.8% decline from 2011.

Kingsport-Bristol’s 2013 annual average was $623 a week, down 0.9% from 2012 which was up 7.3% from 2011.

KB weekly wage


JC weekly wage

Dec weekly wage








U.S. emerges as one of the few bright lights on the economic horizon

Bloomberg is reporting that one of the biggest take-aways from Davos is the world’s movers, shakers and opinion shapers have stopped resenting and ridiculing the U.S. for its leading role in the financial crisis of 2008-09 and are looking at it as one of the very few bright lights on the economic horizon.

For Americans who’ve grown accustomed to laments about the country’s decline, the turnaround can be disorienting. After a slow and uninspiring recovery from the depths of the recession, it’s still difficult to embrace the idea that the U.S. economy is booming again—which is one reason President Obama devoted much of his State of the Union address to extolling it. “Since 2010,” Obama said, “America has put more people back to work than Europe, Japan, and all advanced economies combined.”

Of the 10 most valuable companies in the world, eight are based in the U.S. The shale oil revolution, which was born and remains centered in the U.S., has broken the back of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, halving the world price of crude since last summer. And the U.S. remains a cultural powerhouse. “You walk down the street in Davos, and they’re playing Unbroken and Boyhood,” notes Vaclav Smil, a Czech-born professor emeritus at the University of Manitoba. China may be growing faster, but it lacks the magnetism of the U.S., he adds. “The U.S. is still the indispensable country. Who wants a green card to go to China?”

Does all this mean the U.S. is really, truly back? Yes and no. The recent performance is impressive when compared against much of the rest of the world. But this isn’t the Olympics, and the global economy isn’t a zero-sum game in which a win for one country is necessarily a loss for another. If the U.S. hopes to sustain its growth, let alone improve on it, then the world’s other economies need to grow, too, so they can buy more of what America makes.

Meanwhile, the U.S. itself still has serious long-term challenges. The technology and globalization that are enriching some Americans are impoverishing others. It’s not enough to do better than the rest; the U.S. needs to find a way to create shared prosperity by equipping all Americans to thrive. If it manages to do that—no easy task—it can once again become an engine of growth that will benefit the world.

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