Jan. local jobs, employment reports delayed, what to watch for


Trend charts at the bottom of this report

January’s employment report has perked local enthusiasm because it was stronger than expected. But if you want the local version you’ll have to wait a little longer.

The monthly state report usually comes in the middle of the month. City and county reports follow the next week. But not this month.

According to the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development the release dates for January and February data are later than normal because the revision of the prior year must be completed first. That means March will see a double dose of jobs, employment and pay data for local watchers.

In the meantime, here’s a review and some links to help keep the local vs. national situation in context.

January national report stronger than expected

Nationally, January was a strong month for the labor market. The Wall Street Journal reports all of their economists said the report “suggests that labor markets remain extremely strong as fears of an early-year slowdown prove unfounded.” There was also acknowledgement that “despite a virtual 100 mph headwind, payrolls still managed to get off the runway. The economy overcame not just falling energy prices, but a stronger dollar and postholiday hiring liquidations to post yet another strong month of job gains.”

We’ll have to wait to see if local conditions live up to all that, but considering the fact that the local job picture has declined for two years any improvement would be good news.

December a down month in the Tri-Cities

Employment was down in the Tri-Cities in December. The unadjusted, preliminary number took a big hit – big enough to turn the three-month moving average down. The silver lining to that is January’s national report included some hefty upward adjustments in the November and December numbers. Adjustments are normal when you work with preliminary numbers, but they’re usually not all that big. However, the upcoming local revision is for the previous year.


Tri-Cities employment declines in December 

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


Tracking were we are and  decline’s path

The big picture of the Tri-Cities labor market can seen in a glance in the trends chart at the bottom of this report. We entered the recession later than the rest of the nation. Then – when the local bottom was reached – we began a recovery that was stronger than the rest of the nation. For almost a year the local nonfarm month-over-month job creation rate was much better than the national labor market.

The wheels came off that in late 2011 when the local labor market began to soften. There were some peaks in late 2012 that raised hopes of a turnaround then a steeper decline in 2013. As you see from the chart, at one point this summer the Tri-Cities employment number was lower that it was at the bottom of the recession.

Employment and jobs – the two reports

That’s employment, which is only one of the monthly labor market metrics. It comes from a household survey that looks at two things. Who has a job and who’s looking for a job. It the report used for the unemployment rate, which is a bad metric to measure labor market conditions.


Tri-Cities economic recovery marching to its own drummer 

Projected job growth rates would put Tri-Cities in slow growth lane

Some of the things to remember about the household survey is it logs who has a job, but doesn’t indicate where the job is located. For example, if there are 500 people who live in Johnson City and work at Eastman in Kingsport they are counted in the Johnson City employment total. One form of employment that does show up in the household survey missed by the payroll survey is many of the self-employed workers and independent contractors.

The monthly report that tracks jobs and what type of jobs is the payroll survey. It’s a much larger study but it’s not broken down to the city or county level – metro and Micropolitian statistical areas are the bottom limit.

The trend chart tracking the month-over-month change in Tri-Cities, Kingsport-Bristol and Johnson City MSA nonfarm jobs shows job creating is increasing. An examination of the 2014 annual numbers showed gains in Kingsport-Bristol and losses in the Johnson City MSA. And many of the gains were in the lower paying sectors. The question the numbers beg is if jobs are increasing and unfilled when will the pressure cause local wages to begin increasing.


December Kingsport average ware up, down in Johnson City 


Keys to watch in upcoming local reports

Two keys to watch when the numbers crunch comes down in March is the average weekly private sector wages and an increase in unemployment.  An increase in jobs but higher unemployment would indicate the number of open jobs is bringing people who have dropped out back into the labor market.


The chart tracks Tri-Cities employment from 2007 through Dec. 2014. the black columns are the high and low points in the cycles. The broken line is a three-month moving average. Data is from the BLS monthly household survey. December’s unofficial total will be revised in the January report. There will also likely be revision to totals for other months.

Tri-MoM employment

The month-over-month change in Tri-Cities employment was down in November and December.


The number of nonfarm jobs increased in 2014. The chart tracks the month-over month change from both MSAs in the region plus the Tri-Cities as a whole. The December numbers will be revised when the January labor market reports are issued.





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