Kingsport-Bristol wages up in July, Johnson City MSA wages in negative territory

Kingsport-Bristol private sector wages posted another increase in July while Johnson City MSA workers saw their pay slip back into negative territory.

July was the 12th straight month Kingsport-Bristol the average weekly wage increased on the year-to-year metric.


The top chart is the year-to-year gain/loss in the private sector average wage for the Tri-Cities MSAs. The bottom chart is the year-over-year change in the average private sector work week.

A difference phenomenon is occurring in the three-county Johnson MSA. The average weekly private sector wage there has been positive twice in the past 39 months.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, private sector workers account for 88.1% of the Kingsport-Bristol nonfarm jobs, and 81.7% of the Johnson City MSA.

Overall wages are improving; however, the Johnson City private sector hasn’t bounced back in the recovery as well as Kingsport-Bristol. So far this year improvement in Johnson City has been monthly declines have been less that what they were last year in month except January, May and June.

May and June are the months where there were gains.

The July Kingsport-Bristol average was $633 a week, down from $648 in June. It was $602 July last year. If the average follows the traditional pattern it will slowly increase until November then dip as the year ends.

July’s Johnson City MSA weekly average was $597, down from $604 in June and $605 July last year. The monthly pattern in Johnson City is for the average increase until October then softens the last two months of the year.

Average work week

Average weekly hours in the four-county Kingsport-Bristol MSA was 36.5, up from 36.2 in June. During the same month last year the average was 35.1

Johnson City workers typically see a shorter average work week and July was no exception. The July average was 34 hours, down from 34.7 in June. It was 35.1 July last year.

Inflation and buying power

When adjusted for inflation against the July 2008 pre-recession benchmark, the purchasing power in Kingsport-Bristol was up by $3. That’s the lowest monthly number this year.

When Johnson City’s average is adjusted against the 2008 pre-recession benchmark the buying power was down $66. That adjustment has been negative every month this year.

Tri-Cities wages rank low in state comparison

Knoxville and Chattanooga are the only East Tennessee MSA that had a July private sector average wage higher than the state average in July. That’s normal in the state rankings.

Kingsport-Bristol has moved up a place in that ranking this year, while the Johnson City MSA has consistently been the lowest or next the lowest in the state.

Cost of Living is a factor

Unfortunately I haven’t found a cost of living index based on the MSA level to factor it into the wage comparison. We do know the Tri-Cities have a lower cost of living that the national average. But most of those comparisons are made on the city level.

Sperlings’ BestPlaces has a tool to compare the cost of living with other cities

Area pay


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