Tri-Cities jobs, employment, private sector wages up in August – rate of jobs growth begins to slow

The Tri-Cities labor market moved out of its seasonal slump in August with a with 3,100 more nonfarm jobs than July. Compared to August last year that’s a 1.2% increase and the 17th straight month of year-over-year gains.

August preliminary, non-adjusted data show the region’s nonfarm rounded job total at 201,500. That’s still 3,300 shy of the pre-recession total.



The preliminary unemployment rate was 5.3%, unchanged from July. Compared to August last year, employment was up 2.8%, and it was the 11th straight up month.  Compared to the August pre-recession level, last month’s rate was 1.1% higher. That’s expected. An aging workforce, replacement of jobs by technology and other post-recession changes will reset the unemployment benchmark higher. Only time will tell how much higher. The regional annual unemployment low was 4% in 2000. It hit a  high of 9.5% in 2009 and has  declined every year since then. It was  5.9% for 2015.

A three-month moving average of the year-over-year nonfarm job gains is also trending lower. That metric bottomed in May and increased to an April peak this year. Although the seven-county region job rate has been higher every month since then, the rate is slowly declining.

Average private sector wages for both of the region’s Metropolitan Areas also increase in August, but like the nonfarm jobs year-over-year growth rate, the pace is slowing.



Johnson City MSA’s wage gain continued outpacing Kingsport-Bristol in August.  The faster pace hasn’t been enough to recover the 36-month contraction Johnson City that began in early 2015 and ended in the spring of last year. During that period Kingsport-Bristol assumed the lead as the region’s metro area with the highest average private sector wage.

Johnson City had the lowest average private sector was among Tennessee MSAs in August. Kingsport was slightly higher, but still among the lowest in the state.

Here’s the labor market drill-down for August.


Nonfarm jobs, up 1,300 from July and 1.7% higher than August last year.

Unemployment rate – 5.5%, up 0.3% from July and down 0.7% from August last year.

Employment was up 3.8% from August last year. It was the 13th straight monthly year-over-year increase and the highest increase since July 2015 when employment moved from year-over-year losses to gains.



August’s average private sector wage was $608 a week compared to $593 August last year. When adjusted for inflation against an August 2008 pre-recession benchmark the August average was $60 a week less buying power.

MTSU’s labor market heat chart shows year-over-year gains six of 12 job sectors with the strongest gains in retail trade, professional and business services, other services and government. Three sectors show losses. Transportation and utilities was a double-digit monthly negative for the eight straight months. Wholesale trade and the information sectors were also down.


Nonfarm jobs up 1,800 from July and 1,200 and 1% higher than August last year.

Unemployment rate 5.3% unchanged from July and down 0.4% from August last year.

Employment – 2.2% higher than last year which is the same year-over-year increase as July. It was also the 10th straight year-over-year monthly increase.

August’s weekly private sector wage was $639 compared to $631 last year. When adjusted for inflation against the August 2008 pre-recession benchmark last month’s average weekly wage has $2 more buying power.

The MTSU labor market heat chart shows half of the 12 labor sectors showing gains over August last year. The biggest improvement is the leisure and hospitality sector followed by professional and business services.  Three sectors show a decline over August last year. The information section leads with a 20% loss. That sector has been stuck at a 20% monthly loss since February. Manufacturing was also negative for the seventh straight month. The government sector was also down.


August’s unemployment rate was 6.3% unchanged from July and 0.3% higher than August last year.

Employment was 3.4% higher than August last year.


The August unemployment rate was 5.1%, up 0.1% from July and 0.9% lower than August last year.


Employment was 5.7%, up 0.3% from July and 0.3% lower than August last year.

County employment rates in the Tri-Cities’ NE Tenn. Counties were:

Carter – 5.9%, up 0.2%

Unicoi – 6.9%, up 0.2%

Washington – 5.1%, up 0.1%

Hawkins – 5.6%, unchanged.

Sullivan – 5.5%, unchanged.

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

Tennessee’s August jobless rate was 5%, up 0.1%.

Sullivan Co. household incomes up 9.8%, Washington Co. up 5.9%; area self-employment down

Tri-Cities households posted their strongest income gains since the Great Recession in the latest Census data, and a county-level drill down shows even stronger progress – especially in Sullivan County.

Sullivan ‘s median household income has been slowly gaining on its neighbor to the south. They are now almost on equal footing.

While the Kingsport-Bristol Metropolitan Statistical Area had a 5.1% median household income gain over 2014, Sullivan County was up 9.8% when the three smaller counties are taken out of the equation.

Ditto for Washington County. The Johnson City MSA was up 4.1%, but with Unicoi and Carter counties removed Washington’s median house hold income was up 5.9%.

Tracking for the smaller counties will have to wait until the next American Community Survey release in December.

Average household incomes, which are $17,421 more than the median in Sullivan and $18,236 higher in Washington, didn’t see the same rate of increase but grew in proportion to the medians. And, Sullivan saw a slightly higher one-year growth rate than Washington – not quite enough to equal the average household income playing field.

Washington County’s current average is $63,720, up 7% from $59,532 while Sullivan increased 7.5% to $59,433 from $44,308.

The composition of the two labor markets also saw some changes that tell of less self-employment in both counties and shift in the influence of government employment.

While the number of private wage and salary workers in Sullivan didn’t see an appreciable 2015-2014 change, the ranks grew 2.3% in Washington County. But that was the only gain the county.

The number of government workers was down 1.8% from 2014 and those who reported being self-employed shrank 7.1%.

At the same time, the number of government in Sullivan increased 3.5% while the ranks of the self-employed shrank 1.3%.

Median salaries flipped when the comparison moves to what full-time male workers earned. In Washington County it was up 16% from 2014 – $46,517 from $40,085. Sullivan male full-timers earned a median of $44,073, up 5.7% from $41,678.

Washington County full-time female workers saw an opposite situation. Their 2015 median wage was $30,843 a 0.3% decrease from the 2014 median of $30,921.

Sullivan County full-time female workers had a 1.4% increase from a $30,814 to $31,233.

The labor force participation rate in Sullivan County was down 0.3% to 54.4% in 2015 while the Washington County rate saw no appreciable change from its 58.3% 2014 rate.

A first-pass review of the new economic data also shows the number of people on cash public assistance jumped from 577 in 2014 to 940 in 2015 for a 62.9% increase.

Sullivan County saw an opposition change. The number declined 32.4% from 2,361 in 2014 to 1,597.

The number of Supplemental Social Security Insurance recipients in both counties declined. Washington County had the largest decrease (35.4%) from 2,966 in 2014 to 1,915 in 2015. Sullivan County has a 23.1% decrease – 4,130 recipients compared to 5,368 the year before. The median SSI payment in Sullivan was $9,798 in Sullivan and $8,804 in Washington.

The share of households receiving Social Security increased 6.9% in Sullivan while Washington County’s share dropped 5.2%. The median Social Security outlay was $19,135 in Washington and $17,635 in Sullivan. One reason the Sullivan County outlay is lower can be attributed to the county’s base demographic, which is older than it is in Washington County.

Kingsport-Bristol, Johnson City MSA median household incomes see strong 2015 increases

Tri-Cities 2015 household incomes almost saw the same increase reported earlier this week on the national level.

U.S. median household income –  the point where half are above and half are below – was up 5.2% in the 2015 Census report.

The Kingsport-Bristol Metropolitan Statistical area had a 5.1% increase while the Johnson City MSA saw a 4.1% increase.

According to the 2015 Census Bureau numbers, the Kingsport-Bristol median family income is $41,206, up $1,993 from 2014. The increase in the Johnson City MSA was $1,575 to $40,388.

The increases are the largest since the Great Recession but didn’t quite close the gap in both Tri-Cities MSAs.

When 2015 numbers are compared to a 2008 Census benchmark, Kingsport-Bristol’s median household income is up 3.5% while the Johnson City MSA is 0.99% ($404) below what it was before the Great Recession hit the local economy.

And when you look at the average household income instead of the median a different picture emerges.

The most recent Johnson City MSA average is $56,652, up 3.9% from 2014 and 6.1% better that it was before the recession. Kingsport-Bristol’s new average is $56,652, up 4% from 2014 and 8.9% higher than it was before the recession.

Johnson City area workers made up from some of the post-recession wage losses with a 4.1% increase from the 2014 level. Kingsport-Bristol, which didn’t suffer as dramatic wage contraction in the 2012-2014 double-dip period, had a 1% increase in the median worker wage.

The double-dip reference comes from the region’s early recovery from the Great Recession only to begin a 24-month employment slump and average private sector wage reductions in the Johnson City MSA. During that period, Kingsport-Bristol assumed the position of the MSA with the higher average private sector wage.

There Johnson City MSA catchup is also evident in the median salary of full-time male workers. The 2015 median is $41,781, up 13.2% from 2014. In Kingsport-Bristol it’s $42,099, up 0.5%.

The situation was reversed for full-time Johnson City female workers. Their median wage dropped to $29,987 (2%) from $30,594 in 2015.

Full-time female workers in Kingsport-Bristol saw their median wage increase 1.9% to $32,055.

The number of those with Food Stamp/SNAP benefits in the past 12 months also declined from 2014 totals – down 9.8% in the Johnson City MSA and 4.5% in Kingsport Bristol. The data release shows 12,199 food stamp recipients during the past 12 months in the three-county Johnson City MSA and 22,703 in Kingsport-Bristol. The numbers have increased significantly from 2008 when there were 8,223 recipients in the Johnson City MSA and 17,023 in Kingsport-Bristol.

The number of people receiving cash public assistance has also decreased. Kingsport-Bristol saw the biggest decline 24.8%, while the Johnson City MSA decline was 2.5%. The number of cash public assistance recipients in the Johnson City MSA in 2015 was 1,417. It was 4,988 in Kingsport-Bristol. The year before the recession there were 896 Johnson City MSA residents receiving cash public assistance and 3,440 in Kingsport-Bristol.

Poverty rates didn’t change much during the 2015-2014 period.

The Johnson City MSA all families rate was 14.6% unchanged from 2014. The all people poverty rate was 19.8%, down from 20.4%.

In the four-county Kingsport-Bristol MSA the all families poverty rate was 13.1% down from 13.6% in 2014. The all people in poverty rate was 17.6%, down from 18.2




Tri-Cities single male-female homeownership numbers a study of telling contrasts

Almost every real estate ad focuses on a family or couple and their new home. But that’s only part of the story. The ranks of single homeowners have steadily increased as people marry later or choose the single life.

That sets the stage for a telling gender housing market study.

An analysis of the local data that was part of a larger RealtyTrac study shows some even more interesting divisions in the Tri-Cities’ two Metropolitan Statistical Areas.

Nationwide homes owned by single men on average are valued 10% more and appreciated $10,113 (16%) more since purchase than homes owned by single women.

Before we get into the local numbers, there’s a local benchmark consideration.

It cost more to buy a home in the Johnson City MSA than it does in Kingsport-Bristol. The Augusts year-to-date average sales price in the Johnson City MSA was $177,859. In Kingsport-Bristol it was $159,759, according to the Northeast Tennessee Association of Realtors’ Trends Report.

A separate ReatlyTrac affordability analysis found it took 29.1% of household income to buy a home in Washington County. In Sullivan County, a home purchase consumed 18.5% of household income.

But while the Johnson City area’s housing is more expensive the median household wage in Kingsport-Bristol is higher. The most current Census data puts the Kingsport-Bristol median at $39,213 and $38,813 in the Johnson City MSA. Median family incomes are $11,390 higher in the Johnson City MSA and $13,597 in Kingsport-Bristol.

The average male full-time worker in Kingsport-Bristol makes $41,874 a year. His counterpart in the Johnson City MSA makes $36,916.

There isn’t a much female-to-female wage gap as there is male-to-female. The average female full-time worker in Kingsport-Bristol makes $31,453, In the Johnson City MSA, she makes $30,594.

On average, homes owned by a single-woman in the Johnson City MAS have a higher value than those owned by a single male, but it hasn’t appreciated as much since purchase.

Here’s what the numbers look like for Johnson City.

Avg. estimated home value:

Single female – $132,667.

Single male – $124,838.

Avg. value gain since purchase:

Single female –  10% return on purchase.

Single male – 10.6% return on purchase.

On average, the estimated value of a home owned by a single male in Kingsport-Bristol is slightly higher and has a considerable higher percentage return on purchase.

Here’s what the numbers look like for Kingsport-Bristol:

Avg. estimated home value:

Single male – $117,612.

Single female – $113,333.

Avg. value gain since purchase:

Single male – 15.9% return on purchase.

Single female –  2% return on purchase.

“Women earn less than men on average — 19% less according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics – giving them less purchasing power when it comes to buying a home,” said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at RealtyTrac. “So it’s not surprising to see the 10% gender gap in average home values between single men and single women homeowners; however, the slower home price appreciation for homes owned by single women demonstrates that less purchasing power is also having on a domino effect on their ability to build wealth through homeownership as quickly as single men.”

But that conclusion doesn’t match local conditions.

Full-time female workers in the Johnson City MSA earn 17.1% less than males. But even with less purchasing power they buy more home and have almost the same value gain since purchase as single males.

Full-time female workers in Kingsport-Bristol earn 24.9% less than males, but the value of their home is only $4,287 (4%) less than single males. However, there’s a $14,312 avg. value gain since purchase gap enjoyed by single male homeowners.

Among homes owned for at least 15 years, those owned by single men on average had a current market value 17% higher than single female owners. That data set isn’t available for the local markets.


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