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



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