Johnson City sees Sept. wage gains; softer pay performance in Kingsport-Bristol


Clicking on image renders larger graph.

Private sector wages in the Tri-Cities’ two MSA continued headed in opposite directions in September.

The current Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows the average in Kingsport-Bristol has declined for the past two months while it made small gains in the Johnson City MSA. Those small gains are multiplied by a decrease in the average working week in Johnson City.

September’s average in Kingsport-Bristol was $630 a week. That’s $2 a week better than September last year.  So far this year private sector workers in Kingsport-Bristol have seen their weekly average increase every month compared to last year.  It rose to the 7% plus range in May and June, peaked in August at 8% then dropped to 1.5% in August then 0.4% last month. September was the 14 straight month wages have increased on the year-to-year comparison.

Last month was the second straight month the Johnson City average has increased. Those increases were small, but any gain is good news in an area where the year-to-year average has been negative in all but four months since May, 2012. All four of those increase were this year.

September’s average in the three-county Johnson City MSA was $595, $4 better than September last year.


When last month’s weekly wage in Kingsport-Bristol is was adjusted for inflation from a September 2008 pre-recession benchmark it had $16 a week more buying power.

Buying power for Johnson City private sector workers declined by $66 a week when the same inflation adjustment is made.


The average work week declined in both MSAs last month.

September’s average in Kingsport-Bristol was 34.9 hours, down from 36.5 during September last year.

In Johnson City it was 33.9 compared to 34.3 hours the same month last year. It has declined on the year-to-year comparison for the last four months. But there’s a positive to that when compared with the average weekly wage. Since wages have increase slightly during the past two month workers are gaining ground instead of seeing lower wage from fewer hours worked.


Average private sector wages in the Tri-Cities consistently ranks at the bottom when compared to the other MSAs in East Tennessee and the state.

Jackson is the only MSA in the state with a lower weekly average wage.

Morristown has the highest wage among the smaller MSA in East Tennessee while Knoxville had the highest average wage in the state last month.


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 

According Sperlings’ data crunching Knoxville has the lowest overall cost of living for East Tennessee towns that correspond to the wage report. That’s a powerful statement when combined with data showing it has the highest average wage.

Here’s the current overall cost of living ranking from Sperling’s site:

Knoxville – 80.7

Bristol – 82

Kingsport – 85.1

Morristown 85.6

Johnson City – 87.4

According to Sperlings’ Web site, “Our cost of living indices are based on a U.S.average of 100.” An amount below 100 means a town is cheaper than the US average. A cost of living index above 100 means it’s more expensive.

state wages

Clicking on graph renders larger version.


  1. […] September’s private sector wage and a cost of living ranking can be found at “Johnson City sees Sept. wage gains; softer pay performance in Kingsport-Bristol.“ […]

  2. […] 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 […]

  3. […] Johnson City sees Sept. wage gains; softer pay performance in Kingsport-Bristol  […]

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