Dr. Hipple’s final Tri-Cities employment report shows 2015 growth

ETSU Economist Steb Hipple’s final local employment report says the spring and summer growth continued into the fall.

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

“These overall trends are expected to continue in the national and regional labor markets.  The U.S. economy should expand production and the demand for labor above the one percent rate of annual population growth.  This will slowly add the nearly nine million missing workers back into the productive labor force and reduce the number of families on welfare.  The effect on government budget finances could be significant.  The regional economy also has a good outlook.  The Tri-Cities area is now clearly a part of the national business expansion, and as long as the U.S. economy grows, the regional economy will prosper.  And higher local incomes will provide the basis for continued growth in retail activity. ” according to the ETSU report.


“The strong employment growth in the spring and summer months continued into the fall quarter.  Based on the household data from the Current Population Survey (CPS), regional employment grew 2.6% during the October to December period. The companion payroll data from the Current Employment Survey (CES) puts the metro employment growth at 1.5% on a year-to-year basis.  The last three quarters simply represent the best regional labor market performance since the Great Recession of 2008-09.


“According to the Current Population Survey, metro employment levels increased 2.6% to 216,377.  Unemployment fell 10.8% to 12,346, reducing the jobless rate to 5.4% (compared to 6.2% in 2014 and 6.9% in 2013).  The overall labor force expanded by 1.8% to 228,723.  The Current Employment Survey shows payroll employment rising to 204,733, or 1.5% above 2014 levels.


“The CPS annual data for 2015 clearly show the turnaround in the Tri-Cities metro labor market conditions.  Employment increased by 1.8% to 215,895, marking the first significant job growth since 2011.  The number of unemployed workers fell 10.4% to 13,579, reducing the jobless rate to 5.9%, the lowest rate since 2008.


“Among the twelve regional NAICS industry sectors covered by the CES, employment levels were higher in seven, lower in three, and unchanged in two (compared to higher in seven, lower in one, and unchanged in four sectors in the third quarter). Job growth was led by retail trade, leisure & hospitality, and professional & business services.  Smaller job gains were reported by government, wholesale trade, transport & utilities, and education & health services.  Job declines occurred in manufacturing, information services, and other services..  Employment was unchanged in financial services, and construction.


“All three cities continued to participate in the regional labor market performance.  During the autumn months, employment grew 3.2% in Kingsport, 2.8% in Johnson City, and 1.9% in Bristol.  Unemployment fell by 13.6% in Bristol, 10.2% in Kingsport, and 9.3% in Johnson City.  The lowest unemployment rate was reported by Bristol at 4.9%, followed by Kingsport at 5.5% and Johnson City at 5.5%.  The 2015 annual data for each city reflects the improving regional trends, with rising employment and lower unemployment resulting in a drop in the jobless percentage.”

The report also says, “Effective with this report, Dr. F. Steb Hipple is retiring, so this will be the last entry in the current BBER labor market report series for the Tri-Cities.  The first report was issued in 1984, and the series has been issued continuously for the past thirty-two years.  Contact the Bureau for information regarding future labor market reports.”

The monthly CoreData report and analysis on employment, non-farm job creation,  monthly year-top-year tracking of job by labor sector from MTSU and private sector wage averages for January and February will be published as soon as reports are issued. Those reports will be available in March after the annual adjustments are completed at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


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