Tri-Cities retail sales tax collections bounce in July; E. Tenn collections stronger than rest of state

Tri-Cities retail sales tax collections bounced in July. At the same time, East Tennessee MSAs claimed a big share of the top collection performers statewide.

July sales tax


Year-over-year change in seasonally adjusted collections reported by MTSU’s Department of Economics and Finance show a continued uptrend, but growth began softening in March –  with one exception. The Johnson City MSA experienced a spike in May which was negated by the only year-over-year loss that metro area has felt in the past 14 months.

The local increase parallels the 0.3% increase in consumer spending nationwide.

Much of July’s U.S. increase came with stronger auto and truck sales. Speculation over the effect of CarMax’s entry into the local auto sales market will have to wait for a couple of quarters to see if it increases overall sales, or captures some of the outbound sales and redistributes the existing market share.

Conditions for continued resilient consumer spending is basically the same in the local and U.S. economies. Job and payroll grown are gradually increasing, and lower gasoline prices have afforded households extra budget room.

Service spending is also a little stronger force in the local economy than it is nationwide due to the aging of our demographic. The government’s consumer metric in retail doesn’t account for services consumption.

Since last July the Kingsport-Bristol MSA has outperformed the Johnson City MSA in retail sales collections eight times.

Johnson City has not managed a 50% share of the region’s total collections since February 2015. July’s share was 48.5%, and the share has been ebbing lower since May.

Tennessee year-over-year collections were up 6% in July, and the Nashville MSA led the state with its 7.1% increase.

Knoxville and Kingsport-Bristol were neck-in-neck for July’s second highest performers with 5.8% and 5.6% increases. Morristown was also in the 5% plus increase group.

Here’s how collection across East Tennessee MSA’s looked:

Knoxville, up 5.8%

Kingsport-Bristol, up 5.6%

Morristown, up 5.3%

Johnson City, up 4.1%

Chattanooga, up 1.1%

Cleveland, up 0.3%



Seasonal slump slows but doesn’t stop Tri-Cities jobs, wage increase trend

The Tri-Cities labor market made it through the bottom of the annual seasonal slump with 300 fewer jobs that it had in June and 2,400 more than July last year. Average private sector wages also increased, but the year-over-year gain was less that what each of the region’s two metro areas have recorded in past months.

Tri 3-month moving


Look for the jobs total to make a substantial increase in August as the market moves out of the seasonal slump. The household survey – the less dependable market metric of the two BLS labor market reports – with city and county unemployment rates will be available later this week.

These are preliminary, non-adjusted non-farm job numbers from the current Bureau of Labor Statistics payroll survey of the region’s two metro areas. Expect some small monthly adjustment when the August report comes out next month.

When a three-month moving average is applied to the data, the year-over-year jobs gain is 1.4%. As the chart illustrates, it’s a solid growth trend line. So far this year, it has been above 1% every month. Using a moving average takes some of the noise out of the monthly year-over-year numbers so you get a better trend perspective.


Johnson City pay


The most current labor force participation rates for local metro areas is 2014, but comparing it to the 2008 rate illustrates how this facet of the labor market is faring in the recovery. The rates in both metro areas have declined. Some of that can be attributed to demographics, and since Kingsport-Bristol has an older population base the number of workers aging out of the labor force can be expected to be greater. At the same time, the rates point to the smaller share of the working-age population who are in the labor force.

The Johnson City metro area had a 4.4% increase in population from 2008, but the labor force participation rate was 5.3% lower than it was in 2008. According to 2014 Census data, 56.2% of the population, 16 years-old and older, was in the labor force.

Kingsport-Bristol saw a 2.4% increase in population in the comparison period and labor force participation was 4.5% lower in 2014. Census data show 54.3% of the Kingsport-Bristol population 16 years-old and older was in the labor force in 2014.


One of the easiest ways to track labor market trends is with the Middle Tennessee State University Department of Economics and Finance’s heat charts. The charts show a color-coded year-over-year comparison of the gains and losses in the area’s 12 job sectors.


Kingsport-Bristol pay


The three-county metro area had 900 more nonfarm jobs in July than July last year. That’s 1.2% better than last year.

Half of the job sectors continue showing growth.

The strongest growth is in the Financial Activities and Retail Trade.

Three sectors were negative in July with Transportation and Utilities taking the hardest hit. That sector’s year-over-year losses have been in the double digits since the first of the year.

Weekly avg. pay

July’s average private sector wage was $601, up 0.4% from July last year. This was the smallest year-over-year gain in the last 11 months.

When adjusted for inflation against the July pre-recession benchmark, the average worker had $73 a week less buying power last month.

Johnson City metro had the lowest average private sector wage of all metro areas in the state in July.

The quarterly Census of Employment and Wages for all employees provides a more inclusive look at the local salary landscape; however, Q4 2014 is the most current data available. Here’s how those quarterly weekly averages look compared to Q4 2008.

  • Carter – $619 up from $547
  • Washington – $748, up from $638
  • Unicoi – $814, up from $706.


The four-county region had 1,500 more nonfarm jobs in July, a 1.3% gain over July last year.

Wholesale Trade moved into the growth column joining the metro area’s six other sectors that were in the green.

Kingsport-Bristol is seeing its strongest growth in Transportation and Utilities, Retail Trade, Professional and Business Services and Leisure and Hospitality.

Information retained it job-loss position in July. It’s been in the double-digit loss column since February.

Weekly avg. pay

July’s weekly average was $635, up 0.3% from July last year. It was the smallest increase in 23 months.

When adjusted for inflation against the July pre-recession benchmark, July’s average had $15 more buying power.

Kingsport-Bristol had the second lowest average private sector wage in NE Tennessee in July, $90 a week behind Morristown and $212 a week behind Knoxville.

Here how the weekly average wage for all employees looked compared to Q4 2008.

Sullivan – $877, up from $795.

Hawkins – $728, up from $638.

Scott Co. VA – $599, up from $536.

Washington Co. VA – $692, up from $627.







Most Americans Foresee Death of Cash in Their Lifetime

Gallup is reporting that most Americans (62%) expect the U.S. to become a cashless society in their lifetime, with all purchases being made with credit cards, debit cards and other forms of electronic payment. They express these views as more Americans make payments from an expanding menu of electronic options, and fewer make cash transactions, and as younger populations are becoming more comfortable without cash in their pockets.
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NE Tenn equity rich households dip, seriously underwater share inching upward

The number of equity-rich homeowners in the Northeast Tennessee is shrinking while the number of owners who are seriously underwater properties is increasing.

In both cases the changes are nominal.  It’s not enough to set off alarms, but it does require applying some context to the situation rather than just pulling comparison data point.

In a market like ours that has seen record sales for almost a year you’d expect to see some owners tap their equity to trade up or maybe scale down for retirement.  Either way, would effect the equity rich share.

Equity rich is defined by RealtyTrac’s studies as a property that has a 50% or better loan to value ratio.

The national share of those properties during Q2 was 22.1%, up from 19.6% last year

All seven of the Northeast Tennessee counties in the most recent analysis had a higher share than the U.S. share. Here’s how the locals stack up with their Q2 share last year.

Sullivan Co. 31% down from 33%.

Johnson Co. 30%, unchanged.

Hawkins Co. 26%, up from 25%.

Carter Co., 25%, down from 26%.

Greene Co. 25%, down from 26%.

Washington Co. 23%, up from 22%

Unicoi Co. 24%, down from 26%.

There’s another point to keep in mind when using equity rich shares to measure the local market. Only 52.4% of the homes in Johnson City metro area and 49.6% in the Kingsport-Bristol metro area have mortgages.

A half year of record sales with a conservative year-to-date average sales price increases that range from 1.5% on the low end in Sullivan Co. to a high of 3.5% in Greene Co. also has to be figured into the equity status ebb and flow. It lifted some of those seriously under water to a marginally underwater position. More about that later. The only county with a year-to-date average price decline is Hawkins, down 3.3%.

Owners of properties that are seriously underwater get a lot more attention than those who are equity rich.  Seriously underwater is defined as a property with a loan-to-value ratio of 125% or more.

Nationwide the share of homes with seriously underwater mortgages is 11.9%, down from 13.3% last year. Half of local counties now have a higher share than the rest of the nation.


Here’s how the local markets looked in Q2 compared to the same period last year.


Greene Co. 15%, up from 14%.

Johnson Co. 14%, unchanged.

Carter Co. 12%, up from 11%.

Unicoi Co. 10%, up from 9%.

Washington Co. 9%, down from 10%.

Sullivan Co. 7%, unchanged.


RealtyTrac’s data partner, ATTOM, matched the home equity data against property and ownership characteristic data – including occupancy status, market value, property tax rate, ownership description and congressional district – to provide a profile of who, what, when, where and why for seriously underwater properties.

Here’s what that profiling looks like:

Property value: 34.4% of properties with an estimated market value up to $100,000 are seriously underwater compared to just 4.9% of properties with an estimated market value above $750,000.

Loan vintage: 26.4% of properties with a loan originated between 2004 and 2008 are seriously underwater compared to 8.3% with a loan originated since 2009.

Occupancy status: 21.8% of non-owner occupied properties are seriously underwater compared to 9.1% of occupied properties.

Ownership type: 43.5% of properties owned by a Company/Corporation/Incorporated owner are seriously underwater compared to 10.1% of properties owned by a husband and wife.

Property tax rate: 21.4% of properties with an effective property tax rate above 2% of market value are seriously underwater, compared to 11.8% of properties with an effective property tax rate below 1%.

Political party: 13.1% of properties located in a congressional district with a Democrat representative are seriously underwater compared to 10.8% seriously underwater in a congressional district with a Republican representative.






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