Tri-Cities July labor market shows growth despite seasonal softness

July jobs empThe Tri-Cities’ labor market saw typical seasonal softness in July compared to June totals. But non-adjusted, preliminary nonfarm job and employment data showed six straight months of year-over-year growth.

And the picture gets stronger with the 3-month moving average. It points to five straight months when both data sets show growth. It hasn’t been that way from quite a while (see Tri-Cities labor market continues positive trend ).

July jobs pulse

Nonfarm jobs and employments are expressed in thousands. The jobs number is the from the payroll report for the region’s two MSAs. Employment tracks the number of people who have jobs regardless of where the job is located. .

One illustration of how much the two labor markets were out of sync is the payroll report shows the number of nonfarm jobs in the region positive every month since June 2013 when compared to the same month of the previous year. At the same time the employment report was negative for 20 straight months.  That doesn’t make sense. ETSU economist Dr. Steb Hipple put it this way in a recent interview, “You can’t have one survey going up and another going down and claim they’re observing the same phenomena.”  The data we have watched and payed the most attention to is the household (employment) survey, but it’s “telling a story that is apparently wrong.” Dr. Hipple said he does not see a problem with the household data on the national level. It’s the local level where he has an issue.

The two reports synced in February with a weak employment gain that grew and peaked in April then softened with a seasonal pattern. So far there hasn’t been an explanation of why the employment and job data that had been in opposition suddenly were back on the same track. But what the situation has pointed out is the employment data from the household survey – and the monthly unemployment rate derived from it – should take a backseat to the payroll survey for those who want or need more reliable labor market data. Unfortunately, the payroll survey data is available only on the MSA level.

With that said, here’s how the July unemployment rates looked for the Tri-Cities:

TRI-CITIES – 6.5% unemployment, up 0.1%.

JOHNSON CITY MSA – 6.8% unemployment, up 0.1%

KINGSPORT-BRISTOL MSA – 6.3% unemployment, up 0.1%.

BRISTOL, TN – 7% unemployment, up 0.2%.

JOHNSON CITY – 6.7% unemployment, unchanged from June.

KINGSPORT – 6.5% unemployment, up 0.1%.

The monthly labor sector heat charts that track labor sectors’ year-over-year growth or contraction will be linked as soon as they are issued. Until then here’s a link to the post with the June heat charts.

June Kingsport-Bristol and Johnson City MSA heat carts 


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