Tri-Cities employers continue adding jobs in April; unemployment rates at pre-recession levels


Despite the unreliability of the Census Bureau’s unemployment rate data, April’s labor market reports are good news for the Tri-Cities region.

Job creation and employment were positive for the seventh straight month in April according to non-adjusted, preliminary numbers. The trend shows higher more new jobs, higher employment, fewer unemployed people and unemployment rates that match pre-recession benchmarks. Since the numbers a preliminary, they will be some revisions when next month’s reports are released. Those revisions are small. The same can’t be said annual readjustment in the household survey used to compute employment numbers and the unemployment rate.

Employers added 1,700 new non-farm jobs in April. It was also the third month this year job creation in the Johnson City metro area has outperformed Kingsport-Bristol. The long view shows both metro areas are 1,000 non-farm jobs shy of what they were before the recession.

While there’s no argument local employers have added jobs since the recession a brief look at the type jobs created tells a powerful story about the restructuring of the local economy.

There were 3,900 fewer good producing jobs in April than there were in April 2008 while there were 5,000 more service providing jobs. The trend away from good production and the higher-paying jobs that went with it to a service economy began long before the recession, but restructuring since the recession is our focus in this report. So, while employers have created more service providing jobs, only 15 percent of those jobs pay $50,000 a year or more. The bottom line is the economy has produced more low-paying jobs with fewer services.

April’s employment report shows 5,173 more people employed than there were in April last year in the region. The Tri-Cities unemployment rate dropped to 4.1 percent. The flip side is there were 16,472 fewer people employed in April than there were in April 2008.

A word of caution about the employment numbers.

Dr. F. Steb Hipple again points out that the annual revisions of the estimates used for employment in the local labor market are very unstable. “The annual revisions since the Great Recession have usually resulted in drastic changes in the data. The 2015 revision of regional employment growth of 1.5% to -0.4% is only the latest example.” In contrast, the payroll data for nonfarm jobs has remained remarkably stable. “For local decision marking, the wage data has become the only reliable statistical source.”

Here’s an April snapshot of local labor market conditions. Job totals from the payroll report are not available on the county or city levels.

JOHNSON CITY MSA

Unemployment rate 4.1%.

Non-farm jobs – 80,200, up 1.4% from last year.

Employment – 86,430, up 3.1% from last year.

KINGSPORT-BRISTOL MSA

Unemployment rate – 4.1%

Non-farm jobs – 123,000, up 1.8% from last year.

Employment – 132,600, up 2% from last year.

BRISTOL TN

Unemployment rate -4.6%

Employment – 11,230, up 3.3% from last year.

JOHNSON CITY

Unemployment rate – 3.8%.

Employment – 29,880 – up 3.1% from last year.

KINGSPORT

Unemployment rate – 4.3%

Employment – 21,800, up 3.3% from last year.

 

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