Kingsport-Bristol Aug. avg. wage increases, Johnson City MSA flat

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Comparison of year-to-year change in Kingsport-Bristol and Johnson City MSA average private sector weekly wage. CLICKING ON CHART brings up a larger image.

The average private sector wage for Kingsport-Bristol workers increased in August when compared to August last year while there was a no change for Johnson City MSA workers.  But that’s not all bad. No change was an improvement from Johnson City’s decline of 1.1% in July.

Kingsport-Bristol’s average has improved for 13 straight months while the Johnson City average has managed three months of improvement and another two months of no change in the last 40 months.

k-b wage v jobs

Comparison of the year-to-year change in nonfarm jobs with year-to-year change in the average private sector wage. CLICKING ON CHART brings up a larger image.

The August average in Kingsport-Bristol was $635. August last year it was $622.

The Johnson City MSA average last month was $590, the same as August last year

Average wage and nonfarm jobs

When the year-to-year wage change is compared to the year-to-year increase in nonfarm jobs Kingsport-Bristol private sector workers saw increases in all but seven of the last 20 months.  Nonfarm jobs increased each month during the comparison period that begins in January 2014.

Johnson City MSA workers have not enjoyed the same labor market playing field. The average wage year-to-year change was up in two months, saw no change in another three months and was lower in the remaining months.   During that 20 month period nonfarm jobs increased in all but three months.

Average work week

jc wage v jobs

Comparison of the year-to-year change of nonfarm jobs and the year-to-year change in the average private sector wage. CLICKING ON THE GRAPH brings up a larger image.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average work week decreased in both Tri-Cities MSA last month.

The Kingsport-Bristol weekly average was 34 hours, down from 34.5 hours August last year. It was the third straight month the weekly work week has contracted in the four-county MSA.

In the Johnson City MSA the average was 35.6 hours, down from 36.2 hours last year. August was the first month that the average week has been less than the same month of the previous year since January.

Inflation and buying power

When adjusted for inflation against a pre-recession benchmark of August 2008, last month’s wage in Kingsport- Bristol gained $10 buying power.

When adjusted for inflation against the pre-recession bench mark the Johnson City average last month had lost $83 buying power.

Tri-Cities wages rank low in state comparison

The monthly average wage comparisons with the Tennessee, the national and other state MSAs didn’t change from the July lineup.

Morristown continued to have the highest average among the smaller MSA in East Tennessee.

Knoxville and Chattanooga are the only East Tennessee MSAs with an average higher than the state average wage in August.

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


Average weekly private sector wages.

August reports show continued Tri-Cities labor market improvements

Tri-Cities labor market is pushing through the seasonal soft spot and continued trending higher in August.

Preliminary, non-adjusted nonfarm job numbers from the monthly Bureau of Labor Statistics payroll report show nonfarm jobs made a 1.3% gain over the August 2014 total. August was the 27th straight month for improvements on the year-to-year jobs metric. That’s the good news. The context is 19 of those months saw job gains of less than 1%. In rounded numbers, there were 2,600 more jobs in the seven-county region in August than the same month last year.

The household survey on employment – the second labor market component – shows an expect month-to-month seasonal decline. But the year-over-year data shows the seventh straight month of increases. The long-term trend picture using a 12-month-rolling average shows a steady, sharp increase that began in January. From that perspective, employment is back in the range it was in 2012 just before employment began declining after the local jobs recovery from the Great Recession.   It was during the period the data from the payroll report and employment report were opposing – nonfarm jobs were being adding but the household survey showed employment declining. That situation caused ETSU  economist   Steb Hipple to question the accuracy of household numbers on the local level. Dr. Hipple is also a research associate for the Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

Aug Tri-Cities jobs v. employment

Year-to-year change in nonfarm jobs and employment. CLICKING ON CHART brings up a larger image.

After some an annual and the regular monthly revisions of the preliminary data the jobs and employment data are showing the same improvement trend.

There are two primary labor market reports each month. The first is commonly known as the payroll survey, and it’s just that. It’s a survey of employers about how many people are working and in what jobs.  This survey is the larger of the two reports so it’s considered more accurate. But it’s not available on the county or city levels. It also doesn’t get an accurate count of self-employed and contract workers.

12 mon rolling emp Tri

Tri-Cities non-adjusted employment with 12-month rolling average. CLICKING ON CHART brings up a larger image.

The second report is commonly known as the household survey. It focuses on localities, how many people are working and how many who are looking for a job. It’s the report that drives the monthly unemployment rate. The household survey is a smaller sample so its accuracy is at its best on the national level although it is reported on the county and city (above 25,000) level. The U3 unemployment rate – the most used unemployment rate – has also been criticized because it over-reports the status of many part-time workers i.e. some who work as little as several hours a week are counted just like a full-time worker. The U6 unemployment number, which many say is a better picture of the labor market, was 10.3% in August. That’s the lowest level since August 2008. The U6 report is not available on the MSA or below levels.

An examination of the nonfarm job growth by labor sectors is available at Tri-Cities still adding jobs, not much change in job sector patterns 

Here’s a short-take version of the local labor market reports and the August unemployment rates for the region:

TRI-CITIES – 5.8%, down 0.7%

There were 4,911 more people employed in August than August last year, an increase of 2.3%.  August was the seventh straight month employment has increased on the year-to-year metric.

The employment year-to-year rate of increase peaked at 3% in April and May, then dropped to 1.2% in June, dropped again to 1.7% in July then increased by 2.3% in August.

JOHNSON CITY MSA – 6.2%, down 0.6%

Employment increased by 2,467 people in August compared to August last year, a 3.1% increase.  August was also the seventh straight month employment has increased.

Employers added 1,400 jobs in August. This is a rounded number. When compared to August last year 1,400 jobs have been added. August was the 15th straight month for a jobs increase when compared to the same month of the previous year.

KINGSPORT-BRISTOL MSA – 5.6%, down 0.7%

There were 2,444 more residents employed in Augusts than August last year, and it was the fifth straight increase in the year-over-year metric.

Employers added 2,100 jobs from the July total, and there were 1,200 more jobs than August last year. August was the 14th straight month that nonfarm jobs posted a year-to-year increase. There hasn’t been a loss of nonfarm jobs on this metric in the past 28 months; however, there were months that the total was the same as the same month of the previous year.

BRISTOL, TN – 6%, down 0.9%

There were 250 more people employed in August than August last year. It was the seventh straight month employment has increased on the year-to-year metric. The growth rate peaked at 3.5% in April and has decreased since then. August’s increase was 2.3%.

JOHNSON CITY – 6.1%, down 0.6%

Employment increased by 883 compared to the same month last year. Employment has increased for seven straight months. This year’s year-to-year growth rate peaked at 4.8% in May, fell to 2.8% in June, rebounded to 4.8% in July and was 1.8% in August.

KINGSPORT – 6%, down 0.5%.

There were 484 more people employed in August than August last year – the seventh straight monthly increase on the year-to-year metric. This year’s growth rate peaked at 3.5% in April, dropped to 3.1% in May, declined to 2.3% in June, dropped to 2.1% in July then increased to 2.3% in August.

Tennessee’s August unadjusted unemployment rate was 5.2%, down 0.4%.

The U.S. rate was 5.8%, down 0.6%



Tri-Cities retail performance best in 3 years, Bristol is area’s Q2 volume increase super star

Second quarter Tri-Cities retail performance was the best in three years.

According to ETSU economist  Steb Hipple’s Tri-Cities Retail Sales Report, Bristol sales were up 15.2% to $290 million, Kingsport rose to $413 million and Johnson City sales were up 6.2% to $507 million.

sales tax share

Chart illustrates the share of Q2 Tri-Cities retail sales in the three major cities and the area outside those cities.

“Due to lower energy prices, the overall price level remained unchanged on a year-to-year basis.  With no inflation, sales volume increases were also 15.2% in Bristol, 6.3% in Kingsport, and 6.2% in Johnson City.  In comparison, retail activity rose 6.9% in the metro area, 7.9% in Tennessee, and 1.8% in the United States.

“Retail performance continued to improve in all three East Tennessee metro areas during the spring months.  Dollar sales rose 7.3% in Knoxville, followed closely by 7.0% in Chattanooga and 6.9% in the Tri-Cities.  Adjusted for the zero rate of inflation, real volume increased 7.3% in Knoxville, 7.0% in Chattanooga, and 6.9% in the Tri-Cities.  This marks the fifth quarter of real sales growth in East Tennessee.

According to Dr. Hipple’s analysis, “  The strong retail growth in the regional economy matches the continued employment growth in the Tri-Cities.  As discussed in the last labor market report, both the CES payroll data and the CPS household data are finally in sync and both show strong job gains.  With job growth we will have the income growth needed to sustain continued sales growth.

“The business outlook for the region and the nation remains positive.  At the national level, production and employment and income and retailing continue to increase.  In the region, employment and retailing have been growing.  The ongoing national business expansion will continue to boost business activity in the Tri-Cities.“

The full report and data can be found at


Cash buyers rock Tri-Cities Aug. sales, FHA sales up, most markets on record pace

Tri-Cities cash buyers continued rocking the local housing market in August.

According to RealtyTrac’s current Home Sales Report, local cash buyers claimed a higher share of sales than the national average.

Aug cash salesGreene and Unicoi counties saw the highest cash sales share – slightly over half of last month’s sales. Those two counties were also the only ones where August’s share of cash sales was higher than August last year.

Sullivan, Washington Co. TN and Unicoi were the only counties where the share of cash sales increased from July.

Sullivan and Washington counties were also the top locations for distressed sales. Sullivan had eight REO sales and 10 in-foreclosure sales while Washington Co. recorded three REO sales and 16 in-foreclosure sales. Unicoi saw one REO sales and three in-foreclosure sales.

RealtyTrac’s methodology defines a distressed sale as “a sale of a property that occurs while the property is actively in some state of foreclosure. This includes only sales to third-party buyers or investors not involved in the foreclosure process. It does not include property transfers from the owners in default to the foreclosing bank or lender.”

Missing from August’s cash sales numbers were institutional investors – “residential property sales to non-lending entities that purchased at least 10 properties in a calendar year.”

Aug FHA salesAugust’s report also looked at FHA insured sales and illustrates how much their share has increased since the same month last year.

Hawkins was the only county where share of local FHA sales was greater than the national share, and Greene Co. was the only local county where the share decreased from August last year.

The report also shows single family home and condo sales through August were on pace for an eight-year high nationwide and in 110 out of 204 (54%) metropolitan statistical areas with sufficient sales data.

NETAR and RealtyTrac data show the Johnson City MSA is among those on pace for an eight-year sales high. Kingsport-Bristol is 0.9% off that pace due to soft sales in the SW Va. portions of the MSA. Sullivan and Hawkins counties are currently at a seven-year record levels.

“The continued strength in sales volume across a wide spectrum of markets in August indicates that shock waves from recent global stock market instability have not weakened the housing recovery and in fact there is evidence that the instability has fueled more demand for U.S. real estate,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president of RealtyTrac. “The share of cash sales nationwide in August bounced back from a seven-year low in July, and the month-over-month increase in cash sales share was more pronounced in markets that have traditionally been magnets for foreign cash buyers, including Boston, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Seattle and New York.”



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