Tri-Cities employers add 1,100 new jobs in March, jobless rates drop to pre-recession levels


The Tri-Cities labor market continued gaining steam in March, and the unemployment rate dropped to an eight-year low.

Employment and new nonfarm jobs increased by a little over 1,000 each from February levels. And, for the second straight month, employment increased at a faster year-over-year rate than job creation. That hasn’t happened since the first quarter of 2011 when the local labor market made its initial recovery from the Great Recession. That recovery didn’t last long. The local labor market entered a slump in 2012, and it took until late last year to gain a growth foothold.

Those preliminary, non-adjusted jobs and employment numbers are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics payroll and household surveys. There will be adjustments when the April reports are released, but those tweaks are normally minor after than annual employment readjustment. The numbers are also rounded.

Here’s how March’s Tri-Cities labor market looked:

Nonfarm jobs – up 1,100 from February. Up 2.1% – 4,200 new jobs  – from March last year.

Employment – up, 1,282 from February. Up 2.6% – 5,556 more people with jobs – from March last year.

Labor force – up 604 from February. Up 1.2% from March last year – a gain of 2,814 people.

Unemployment rate – 4.6%, down from 5.9%.

To add some context, here’s how March stacked up against a March 2008 pre-recession benchmark:

Nonfarm jobs – down 2,800.

Employment – down 16,667.

Labor force, down 18,747.

Unemployment rate – 4.6% down from 5.1%.

That comparison to the way things were before the recession is one way to grasp the depth of the Great Recession on the local labor market and how the recovery is forging a new normal. Clearly the labor market is mending, but it’s not back to pre-recession levels. The makeup of the jobs in the market and average pay levels for private sector works will be posted in a few days.

Another perspective is from the Census Bureau’s Business Pattern reports. The most current is the just released 2014 report. It shows the Tri-Cities added 46 new businesses in 2014 compared to 2013. It also shows 635 fewer businesses in the Tri-Cities since the recession. The number of people working at the business before the recession and those after the recession declined by 5,499. The annual payroll for those employees in 2014 was 13.2% more than it was before the recession, but when adjusted for inflation employees had 1.4% less buying power.

Another benchmark is the labor participation rate. Using the same 2008-2014 time frame, it declined from 58.8% in the Kingsport-Bristol metro area to 54.3%. In the Johnson City metro, it declined from 61.5% to 54.3% in 2014. The most current national rate is 63%.

Here’s the labor market snapshot of a deeper dive to the metro and city level labor markets. Non-farm job information is not available on the city level.

JOHNSON CITY METRO – Unemployment rate: 4.6% , down 0.4%. Lowest level since October 2007

Non-farm jobs – up 500 from February. Up 1.7% from March last year, 1,300 new jobs.

Employment – up 506 from February. Up 3% from last year, 2,481 more people employed.

Labor force – up 110 from February, Up 1.4% from March last year, 1,238 more people in the labor force.

Comparison to pre-recession benchmark:

Non-farm jobs – down 1,400 jobs.

Employment – down 9,297 people.

Labor force – down 10,693 people

Unemployment rate – 4.6% down from 5.5% in March 2008.

KINGSPORT-BRISTOL METRO – Unemployment rate: 4.6%, down 0.2%

Non-farm jobs – 600 new jobs since February. Up 2.4% from March last year, 2,900 new jobs.

Employment – 776 new jobs since February. Up  2.4% from March last year, 3,075 more people employed.

Labor force – up 504 from February. Up 1.2% from March last year, 1,586 more people in the labor force.

Comparison to pre-recession benchmark:

Non-farm jobs – down 1,400 jobs.

Employment – down 7,380 people.

Labor force – down 8,044 people.

Unemployment rate – 4.6% down from 4.8%.

BRISTOL – Unemployment rate: 4.9%, up 0.1%

Employment – Up 81 from February. Up 3.5% from March last year, 377 more people employed.

Labor force – Up 98 from February. Up 0.84% from last year, 313 people.

Comparison to pre-recession benchmark:

Employment – down 907 people.

Labor force, down 913 people.

Unemployment rate – 4.9%, up from 4.5%

JOHNSON CITY – Unemployment rate: 4.1%, down 0.1%.

Employment – Up 175 from February, up 3.1% from March last year, 884 people.

Labor force – Up 113 from February, up 1.2% from March last year, 378 people.

Pre-recession benchmark comparison:

Employment – down 1,115 people.

Labor force – down 1,533 people.

Unemployment rate – 4.1%, down from 5.2%.

KINGSPORT – Unemployment rate: 4.5%, down 0.5%

Kingsport is the only city where the current employment level is higher than it was before the recession.

Employment – Up 152 from February, Up 3.5% from March last year, 728 more people employed.

Labor force – Up 11 from February, Up 2%, 439 more people.

Pre-recession comparison:

Employment – up 3,674 people.

Labor force – up 3,665 people.

Unemployment rate – 4.5%, down from 5.4%.

Tennessee’s preliminary March unemployment rate was 4.5%, down 0.4%.

The U.S. rate was 5%, down 0.1%.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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