Dec. Tri-Cities jobs above pre-recession level, employment makes strong gain

450 jobsThe Tri-Cities labor market closed 2015 with the second straight month of more non-farm jobs than there were before the recession. At the same time employment – a separate labor market indicator – saw its second largest monthly year-to-year gain this year.

Preliminary, non-seasonally adjusted reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Census Bureau show there were 3,300 more non-farm jobs in December than they were December last year. That’s a 1.6% increase – slightly above the average 2015 rate.

The number of people who reported they had jobs was up 7,140 from December last year – an increase of 3.4%.

Non-farm job creation has been positive for 32 straight months while employment has increased every month since February 2015.

December’s numbers are preliminary and will see some adjustments when the January and February reports are released.  Those reports will also include the annual adjustments.

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 a more accurate reflection of the labor market. But it’s not available on the county or city levels.

aemploymentThe 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 payroll 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 9.9% in December. It has been in the 9% plus range since November – its lowest level since June 2008. The U6 report is reported on the national level.

Here’s the snapshot of December’s reports. The number following the locality is the unadjusted unemployment rate.  Separate reports on December’s average private sector wage, a 2005-2015 comparison of goods producing jobs v. service jobs and charts of the year-to-year gains in losses by job sectors will be posted later this week.

TRI-CITIES – 5.4% unchanged from November.

Average number of jobs added each month in 2015 – 275.

Non-farm jobs (rounded number) December 2015 – 205,200.

Non-farm jobs December 2014 – 201,900.

Non-farm jobs December 2008 (the year before the Great Recession hit the local economy) – 202,800.

December employment (rounded number) – 217,050.

December 2014 employment – 209,910.

December 2008 employment –  231,208.

The year-to-year monthly employment growth rate has exceeded the non-farm job growth rate every month since April. Employment grew by an average of 595 people a month during the year.

JOHNSON CITY MSA – 5.8% up 0.1%

Employers added an average of 67 new non-farm jobs each month in 2015.

December 2015 non-farm jobs – 79,900.

December 2014 non-farm jobs – 79,100.

December 2008 non-farm jobs – 79,700.

The employment growth rate in the three-county Johnson City MSA has been greater than the jobs growth rate every month since April.  December’s change from December last year was 3.5% compared to the jobs year-to-year growth rate of 1%. Employment grew at an average of 235 persons a month during the year.

December 2015 employment – 84,240.

December 2014 employment – 81,425.

December 2008 employment – 93,531.

KINGSPORT-BRISTOL MSA – 5.1%, down 0.1%

Employers in the four-county MSA added non-farm jobs at a monthly average rate of 208 during 2015.

Non-farm jobs December 2015 – 125,300.

Non-farm jobs December 2014 – 122,800.

Non-farm jobs December 2008 – 123,100.

December was the strongest monthly year-to-year increase in 2015 – 3.4%. The employment rate has been greater than the job creation rate for three straight months.  Employment grew at an average of 360 a month during 2015.

December 2015 employment – 132,810.

December 2014 employment – 128,485.

December 2008 employment – 137, 677.

BRISTOL – 5.4%, down 0.3%.

Employment grew at a monthly average rate of 38 persons during 2015.

December 2015 employment – 11,090.

December 2014 employment – 10,636.

December 2008 employment – 11,956.

JOHNSON CITY – 5.2%, down 0.3%.

Employment grew at an average rate of 80 people a month during 2015.

December 2015 employment – 28,860.

December 2014 employment – 27,901.

December 2008 employment – 30,319.

KINGSPORT – 5.4%, unchanged from November.

Employment grew at an average of 75 persons a month during 2015.

December 2015 employment – 21,590.

December 2014 employment – 20,697.

December 2008 employment – 17,824.

Kingsport is the only jurisdiction among cities that has more people reporting they were employed in December than there were before the recession.


  1. […] this month a CoeData report showed non-farm job levels for the last two months of the year were at pre-recession […]

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