Sept. sees Tri-Cities jobs gains; softer employment performance

Sept yy jobs emp ch

Clicking on chart renders larger version.

Employment showed some year-to-year softness in the Tri-Cities in September while year-to-year nonfarm job creation was up. Overall it was a positive month for the local labor market. Employment and job growth have been positive since March when compared to the same months last year.

September was the 28th straight month for year-to-year nonfarm job growth. Employment was up for the eight month, but the pace for both components has lagged since this year’s April-May growth peak. The preliminary September unemployment rate for the region, its two MSAs was unchanged from August.

Compared to September last year, there were 1,100 new jobs in the three-county Johnson City MSA and 1,700 in the four-county Kingsport- Bristol MSA. Those are preliminary, non-adjusted numbers. Expect some adjustment next month. For example, the August nonfarm jobs were adjusted down by 200 in both MSAs.

The region is slowly gaining on its pre-recession jobs level, but it’s not there yet. When compared to a September 2008 pre-recession benchmark the region is down 600 nonfarm jobs. The Johnson City MSA remains the hardest hit area. It’s down 900 jobs from the pre-recession benchmark, while Kingsport-Bristol has added 300 jobs.

The picture isn’t as bright for employment. Compared to September 2008 Tri-Cities employment is down 18,647. The Johnson City MSA is down almost 11,000 while Kingsport-Bristol is down almost 8,000.  The long-term trend picture using a 12-month-rolling average to take the noise of the monthly fluctuations show a steady, sharp increase that began in January peaked in April and May then began ebbing. In September the raw employment number and the rolling average were almost equal. From that perspective, employment is has bottomed out of the slump that began in late 2011.   It was during that slump period the data from the jobs and employment numbers were in opposition – nonfarm jobs were being adding but the household survey showed employment declining. That situation caused ETSU economist Dr. Steb Hipple to question the accuracy of employment data on the local level. Dr. Hipple is also a research associate for the Bureau of Business and Economic Research. So far this year the three-month moving avg. of nonfarm job and employment has been positive since March.

There are two primary labor market reports each month. The first is 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 and 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. Nonfarm jobs are the primary number from the payroll survey used in this report.

The second report is a 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% in September. That’s the lowest level since May 2008. The U6 report is not available on the MSA or below levels.


The September and year-to-year performance of the region’s 12 job sectors can be found at Heat charts map Tri-Cities job sector gains and losses

September’s average private sector wage, hours worked and a cost of living report can be found at Johnson City sees Sept. wage gains; softer pay performance in Kingsport-Bristol


Here’s a short-take version of the payroll survey with the rounded number of nonfarm jobs with the y-y change and the September unemployment rates for the region, the two MSAs and three major cities:


Unemployment rate – 5.8%, unchanged.

Nonfarm jobs – 203,100 up 1.4%

Employment – 214,320 up 1.6%


Unemployment rate – 6.2%, unchanged

Nonfarm jobs – 79,400 – up 1.4%

Employment – 83,280, up 2.1%


Unemployment rate – 5.6%, unchanged%

Nonfarm jobs – 123,700, up 1.4%

Employment – 131,030, up 1.4%


Unemployment rate – 6.1%, up 0.1%

Employment – 10,900, up 1.9%


Unemployment rate – 6%, unchanged

Employment – 28,560, up 1.5%


Unemployment rate – 5.9%, down 0.1%

Employment – 21,210 – up 1.9%

Tennessee’s September preliminary, non-adjusted unemployment rate was 5.7%, down 0.1%. The adjusted rate was 5.7%, unchanged from August.

The U.S. non-adjusted rate was 4.9%, down 0.3%. The adjusted rate was 5.1%, unchanged from August.



  1. […] Sept. sees Tri-Cities jobs gains; softer employment performance […]

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