Tri-Cities sees another month of uneven job gains in both Kingsport-Bristol, Johnson City metro areas

The overall tri-Cities jobs picture improved in May, but that improvement is slow, doesn’t include all 12 sectors and is another example of the type growth that has so frustrated residents.

MTSU’s labor market heat charts are a quick way to get a handle on year-over-year job sector growth for the Tri’s two metro areas.

Johnson City 


What those charts show mirrors and expands on CoreData earlier post about job creation and a companion post about the progress of local private sector wages.

Johnson City metro job creation surge highlights Tri-Cities labor market report 

Johnson City metro, Kingsport-Bristol May wage increases higher than job creation rate 

The big takeaway is retail trade shows the largest year-over-year growth in both metro areas.

In the Johnson City metro, year-over-year retail jobs were up 4.9%. In Kingsport-Bristol they were up 7.9%.

In rounded job numbers that means there were 1000 more people working retail in Johnson City and 800 more in Kingsport-Bristol than there were at the pre-recession peaks.

Granted this is jobs growth, but compare it to the most talked about and wished-for type jobs manufacturing.

Only Johnson City saw a growth in manufacturing jobs in May – up 4.2%. In Kingsport-Bristol it was down 2.3% and has declined for 11 months.

In actual jobs, there were 100 more Johnson City manufacturing jobs than May last year, but 800 fewer than the pre-recession high.

In Kingsport-Bristol’s May, there were 500 fewer manufacturing jobs and 4,500 fewer than the pre-recession high.

But the regional shift away from manufacturing hasn’t been just since the recession. Turning back the clock to 1990’s peak months, manufacturing jobs in Johnson City metro area are down 8,500. The same comparison for Kingsport-Bristol shows a loss of 14,400 jobs.

The erosion of almost  23,000 prized jobs that are typically better-paying and with benefits is a kick in the economy that hard to replace both in actual jobs and workers’ memories.

Make the same time-frame comparison with retail jobs and you see the region has added 5,700 retail jobs – 2,800 in Johnson City and 2,900 in Kingsport-Bristol.

But that doesn’t blot out the fact that job creation and wages are picking up.

A high point in May for both sectors was construction. In Johnson City, it was up for the third straight month. Kingsport-Bristol’s heat chart shows 11 straight gains. May was the weakest.

Kingsport-Bristol’s heaviest loss was in the information sector. It’s been in the double-digit red since February, and with the exception of one month flat for over a year.

The total count for the four counties in Kingsport-Bristol was six job sectors showing gains and the other six flat or showing declines.

Transportation and utilities were again the double-digit category loss in Johnson City. It’s been in the red since the first of the year and flat all year.

Like Kingsport-Bristol, the Johnson City metro area has six job categories in the growth column in May and the other six showing losses or no change.


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