Johnson City MSA workers see big Oct. pay bump; Kingsport-Bristol has become Tri-Cities top wage area

Johnson City MSA private sectors workers saw their biggest pay bump in over a year in October – 5.3%.

yy pay changeIt’s didn’t equal what Kingsport-Bristol workers saw in spring and early summer,  but it was a larger year-to-year increase that Kingsport-Bristol’s October 3.9% increase. It was also the third straight month wages have increased in the Johnson City MSA.

The current average weekly private sector wage in the three-count Johnson City area is $607, up from $576 October last year. It was also the best October for wages since 2013.

In the four-county Kingsport-Bristol MSA October’s weekly average was $644, up from $620 last year. Private sector wages in Kingsport-Bristol have seen a year-to-year increase every month this year. They have also out preformed the Johnson City MSA for a little over three years.

October’s increase in Johnson City was also punctuated with a larger year-to-year gain in wages than the year-to-year gain in hours worked. It was the second straight month for that condition which equates into a larger wage gain position for a region where wages have been pummeled since the spring of 2012.


When last month’s weekly wage in the Johnson City MSA is adjusted for inflation from a September 2008 pre-recession benchmark it had $40 a week less buying power.

Buying power for Kingsport-Bristol private sector workers increased by $30 a week when the same inflation adjustment is made.

This buying power trend line has been in play for over a year.


In a trend that hasn’t received much attention,  Kingsport-Bristol has become the MSA with the highest average private sector wage in the Tri-Cities.

When compared against the averages for 2008 – the year before the Great Recession hit here – Johnson City’s average wage was higher that it was in Kingsport-Bristol in 11 out of 12 months.  It was a pattern that was in place for several years that was reversed by the recession and the recovery in the Johnson City MSA.


The average work week increased in both MSAs last month.

October’s average in Kingsport-Bristol was 36.7 hours, up from 36.3 October last year.

In Johnson City it was 34 compared to 33.9 hours the same month last year.

When compared to a pre-recession benchmark Kingsport-Bristol private sector workers worked an average of 1.9 more hours a week in October while their counterparts in the Johnson City MSA were working 2.1 fewer hours a week.


The annual median salary for a full-time man in the Kingsport Bristol MSA in 2014 was $41,874. The median wage for a woman working full-time there was $31,453. The median for all workers was $26,142.  October’s average annualized private sector was is $33,488.

In the Johnson City MSA the median 2014 wage for a man working full-time was $36,916. For a woman working full-time it was $30,594. The median for all of that MSA’s workers was $24,705. October’s annualized average private sector wage is $31,564.


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 

state compare



Tri-Cities nonfarm jobs hit 7-year high in Oct.; employment up for 9th month

October’s labor market reports show Tri-Cities nonfarm jobs at a seven-year high while employment  logged its ninth straight month of year-to-year gains.

Tri - jobs employment chThe Bureau of Labor and Statistics’ payroll report put the rounded number of nonfarm jobs in the seven-county region last month at 204,200. That’s 400 more that the October 2008 total – the year before the Great Recession hit the local economy.  A comparison of  employment for the same period shows the number of people employed last month at 216,260, down almost 19,000 from the pre-recession benchmark.  Employment has been steadily growing this year after bottoming out from a slide that began in late summer 2012. Nonfarm jobs have  posted year-to-year gains every month since June 2013.

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.

JC jobs employment chThe second report is 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 U3 unemployment rate citied in most government and media reports.

Balancing what both reports are saying is important because each survey has strengths and weaknesses. For example:

-The jobs report tends to under report  many self-employed people or contract workers. That element of the labor market has seen substantial increases since the recession.

– The household report is a much 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 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 9.8% in October. That’s its lowest level since June 2008. The U6 report is not available on the MSA or below levels.

Kb jobs employment chFor almost two years the local jobs and employment numbers opposed each other. The number of jobs was increasing but employment was declining. That was the basis for ETSU Economists Dr. Steb Hipple’s comments after the release of his Q1 labor market analysis questioning the accuracy of the local employment data. That report can be found by CLICKING HERE.

That situation reversed after the first quarter of this year when employment began showing increases tht followed the job creation pattern.  Since then the labor market has seen solid growth – especially in the Johnson City MSA.  Employment across the region has increased at a faster year-to-year monthly rate than jobs since April.

One other consideration that factors into the October jobs – employment pre-recession contrast is demographics. The Tri-Cities has a higher median age than the state and nation so it’s on the leading edge of the tidal wave of Baby Boomers reaching retirement age. And, the recovery from the recession has seen a significant number of jobs typically held by Baby Boomers in their late 50s and early 60s eliminated.  Some of those individuals have retrained for other jobs, some have left the area, some have taken jobs in other fields and others have retired or dropped out of the labor force.

October’s preliminary, not adjusted labor force was 228,740, down 20,720 from what it was in October 2008. At the same time the labor force has been increasing at an average monthly year-to-year  rate of 0.8% since the beginning of the year. In actual numbers it has been higher when compared to the same month of the previous year since April.

Here’s the snapshot of October’s reports. The number following the locality is October’s unadjusted unemployment rate. Numbers from both the jobs and employment reports are not seasonally adjusted and preliminary, which means there will be some revisions when the numbers for November show up next month.

TRI-CITIES – 5.5%, down 0.3%.

Since September’s, employers added 900 nonfarm jobs. Compared to October last year the job total is up 3,200 as the region’s labor market continues to strengthen – especially in the Johnson City MSA.  The number of nonfarm jobs added this year-to-date is 2,300.

This year’s year-to-year average monthly job growth rate – 1.5%. In October it was 1.6%.

Employment last month was up 1,945 from September and 5,403 better than October last year.  Year-to-date employment was up 6,360.

The 2015 year-to-year average monthly growth rate –  1.6%. In October it was also 1.6%.

 This year’s year-to-year average monthly labor force growth rate – 0.02%. In October it was 0.5%.

JOHNSON CITY MSA – 5.7%, down 0.5%.

 The three-county Johnson City MSA saw a solid employment increase in October while new job creation has plateaued on a 1.6%-to-1.7% growth rate range for the past three months.

Employers added 400 jobs in October. So far this year they are up 900. Compared to October last year they are up 1,300.

Compared to the October 2008 pre-recession benchmark, the number of jobs is down 300.

Year-to-year average monthly jobs growth rate 1.7%.  Last month it was 1.7%.

The household survey shows 80,000 employment last month. That’s 1,097 better than September and up 2,169 from October last year.  So far this year the employment total is up 2,747. When compared to the pre-recession benchmark employment in the Johnson City MSA is down by almost 11,000.

The year-to-year average month employment growth rate 2.1% this year. In October it was 2.6%.

The labor force has increased every month since April. This year’s year-over-year average monthly growth rate is 1.3%. In October it was 1.8%.

KINGSPORT-BRISTOL MSA – 5.3%, down 0.2%.

Although the year-to-year growth nonfarm job and employment rates in this four-county MSA are not as large as increases in the Johnson City MSA it did not suffer the same degree of losses in the post-recession slump. It also had more nonfarm jobs in October than it did in October 2008.

Last month employers added 500 nonfarm jobs. So far this year jobs have increased by 1,400, and when compared to October last year they are up 1,900.

The year-to-year average monthly job growth rate is 1.4%. In October it was 1.6%.

During the first 10 months of this year employment is up 3,395. When compared to October last year it’s up 2,118 and it increased 848 from September.  When compared to October 2008 employment in the four-county MSA is down about 8,000.

The 2015 year-to-year average monthly average employment rate is 1.3%. In October it was 1.6%.

The Kingsport-Bristol labor force is seeing a year-to-year average monthly growth rate this year of 0.4%. In October it was 0.2%.

 BRISTOL, TN –  5.6%, down 0.5%.

So far this year employment has increased 384 in Bristol. October saw an increase of 68 from September. Compared to October last year it’s up 219.

Employment is a little over 1,000 lower that it was in October 2008.

The year-to-year average monthly employment rate so far this year is 1.7%. In October it was 2.6%.

Bristol’s year-to-year average monthly labor force growth rate is 0.21%. In October it was 0.6%.

JOHNSON CITY – 5.5%, down 0.4%. 

During the first 10 months of this year employment has increased by 999 in Johnson City. October saw an increase of 240 from September. Compared to October last year it’s up 771.

Employment is down almost 2,000 when compared to October 2008.

The year-to-year average monthly employment growth rate this year is 2.16%. In October it was 2.9%.

Johnson City’s labor force is seeing an average year-to-year monthly growth rate of 1.7%. In October it was 2.6%.

KINGSPORT – 5.4%, down 0.5%

 So far this year employment is up 753. In October it was up 240 from September and 550 better than October last year.

When compared to October 2008, employment is about 8,000 lower.

Kingsport’s 2015 average monthly year-to-year employment growth rate is 1.7%. In October it was 2.6%.

The average monthly year-to-year labor force growth rate is 1.2% so far this year. In October it was 1.7%.

Tri-Cities employment

Kingsport-Bristol Oct. sales tax collections lead area’s MSAs, second best in E. TN

Kingsport-Bristol retail sales tax collections took another plunge in Oct. but no one is complaining.

Sales tax


After a steep slide from September’s y-y 15.4% increase October’s 6% was good enough make it the second-best posting among East Tennessee’s MSAs and the best in NE Tennessee.

The MTSU Business and Economic Research Center/Tenn. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations report shows Kingsport-Bristol collections 6% better than October last year.

Kingsport-Bristol collections have been on a roller coaster ride zooming to  a y-y highs then madding  a dizzying drop the following month.

Seasonally adjusted collections in the Tri-Cities southern MSA have consistently underperformed Kingsport-Bristol since October last year, but their y-y tend line is a lot less volatile.

Here’s how the October y-y changes looked in East Tennessee:

Chattanooga – up 9.3%.

Kingsport-Bristol – up 6%.

Knoxville – up 4.8%.

Johnson City  – up 3.4%

Morristown up – up 2.8%.

Tri-Cities collections were down 9.5% when compared the inflation adjusted collections from October 2008 to gauge how they are performing against a pre-recession benchmark.

Homes in Kingsport, Erwin, Greeneville school zones get best buy ranking

A current RealtyTrac analysis of 27,000 elementary schools in more than 7,2000 zip codes, along with home price affordability in those zip codes found 65% of zips with good schools are unaffordable for home buyers making the average wage. That wasn’t the case in any of the Tri-Cities schools in the  study.

Take a deeper drive into that data and you find that 100% of the homes in 78 Tri-Cities zip codes met the affordability benchmark. The three that came in just below the 33% of income to buy a median-priced home in their ZIP were all in Gray. One of those, Ridgeview Elementary, is the group that fit the study’s methodology as a “good school.”

Nine Tri-Cities schools fell within the “good school” methodology.

Four of those schools are in Washington County and three are in Sullivan. Greene and Unicoi counties had one each.

Thirty-five schools ranked above the study’s benchmark as the state average and 34 ranked below the study’s benchmark as average.  Many school missed being in the good school and above average by a very slim margin. For example, if the methodology had been round by a tenth of a percent one school would have joined the “good school” column and two schools would have moved into the average test score column.

A heat map of the most affordable good-school zips in each Metro can be found  by CLICKING HERE.


School data is from each state’s Department of Education in 2014. Test scores are based around the test average of each state with the state average being a score of 1.  The higher above the state average the school is, the higher the grade. A good school is defined as having a 2014 test score at least one-third higher than the state average and affordability is the percentage of an average wage earner’s income needed to buy a median priced home.

Median price data is from publicly recorded sales deeds and mortgages for single family homes and condos. In some states known as non-disclosure states where the sales price is not required on the sales deed RealtyTrac used loan amounts and estimated property value at time of sale instead of the sale price.

Average wage data came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and was from the first quarter of 2015, the most recent available. Affordability was calculated based on the percentage of average wages to make monthly house payments on a median priced home, assuming a 10 percent down payment and 3.80 percent interest rate based on Freddie Mac data.

Only zip codes with at least 50 sales of single family homes and condos, not including multiple-parcel transactions, in both 2014 and 2015 were included in the analysis

For blog100

Tri-Cities schools ranked by RealtyTrac’s good school methodology. The schools in bold are those ranked by the study as the most affordable in the good school category. Clicking on image renders a larger file.


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