Tri-Cities wages increase in February, trending higher

Private sector wages in the Johnson City MSA posted the second straight month of strong increases in February.


Year-over-year increase for the average private sector wage.

Kingsport-Bristol experienced the same upswing, but for the first time in almost four years took a backseat to the Johnson City MSA growth pace.

Preliminary, non-adjusted average private sector wage data for February show the Johnson City Average was up 4.2% in February as it was in January. Kingsport-Bristol’s year-to-year rate was up 3% in February and 2.9% in January.

Last year wages grew about 4.4% nationwide. Kingsport’s annual average was just below that mark at 4.2% while the Johnson City MSA annual year-to-year rate was down 0.3%.

The monthly county total wage for all industries offers a contrasting picture of wages. Since it’s a quarterly by-the-month metric it lags the private sector wage report. The most recent numbers are at the bottom of this report.

Johnson City’s private sector accounted for 78.6% of nonfarm jobs in February. The Kingsport-Bristol share was 86.6%.

The post-recession labor market slump that gripped the Tri-Cities in 2012 until last year put a stranglehold on private sector wage averages in the Johnson City MSA. Before that economic double-dip, it boasted the highest average private sector wage in the Tri-Cities. Kingsport-Bristol now has that bragging right.

February’s report put the weekly average in Johnson City at $647. When adjusted for inflation against a pre-recession benchmark of February 2008 someone with the average had $43 a week less buying power. The annual average last year was $592.

Kingsport-Bristol’s February average was $631. When adjusted for inflation that average private sector worker had $9 a week more buying power. That’s the effect of the slow gains Kingsport-Bristol made during the 35 months in Johnson City when they went the other direction. Kingsport-Bristol’s annual average last year was $638.

Despite the 4.2% February gain the Johnson City average wage ranked next to last among MSAs in Tennessee. Kingsport-Bristol was one notch above Johnson City in the rankings.

Jackson had the lowest average at $599 while Knoxville had the highest at $860 a week.

The average private sector wage is the only Bureau of Labor Statistic report for wages on a monthly basis.

The BLS’s quarterly survey of county ages is a good counter balance to the private sector month wage.

Here’s what the most recent total monthly wage, the year-to-year change and buying power after adjustment for inflations against the pre-recession benchmark is for the counties that make up the Tri-Cities two MSA’s


Sullivan Co. – $861, up 3.4% Buying power up $32

Hawkins Co. – $709, up 5.5% Buying power up $36

Scott Co. VA – $598, down 0.3% Buying power up $18

Washington Co. VA. – $670, down 0.1%  Buying power down $5



Washington Co. – $733, up 1.8% Buying power up $49

Carter Co. – $594, up 5.3% Buying power up $24

Unicoi Co. –  $771, down 0.3% Buying power up $46





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