Some Johnson City residents who work in their home town did better after recession that other local cities

Changes caused and augmented by the Great Recession were deep, dramatic and some are still not risen to broad public attention.

This post is another dive into the Census Bureau’s Local Employment Dynamics data in an attempt to better define the landscape that has, and continues, to evolve in the Tri-Cities’ major communities.

This focus, this time, is on the primary jobs in each of the three major local cities by people who live in the city where they work. The importance of this dynamic is a hot button topic at City Halls these days. It’s a focus because our region has no natural population growth. Our death rate is higher than our birth rate. So, any population comes from migration. Say that and the most common thing that comes to mind is folks who retire to our area and those who are recruited or transferred here to work.

But that’s not really where the bulk of migration happens. Most of it is people moving from one local city to another or from nearby areas or states to the Tri-Cities.

Population growth is and will continue to be a hot-button topic because of the economic effect. According to a UNC Wilmington study, each newcomer to a community generates $25,000 per year consuming services and creating demand for jobs in medical, pharmacy, finance, insurance, real estate, food, retail, etc.  Simply put, population growth is human capital necessary to sustain and grow the amount of business and retail sales tax collections communities command.

Here’s a snapshot look at primary jobs held by people who live and work in each of the local communities and the change between 2008 and 2014 (the most current Census data). How those who commute to other cities to work is the topic of an upcoming post. A primary job for this study is defined as the one where that paid an employee the largest part of his or her earnings. The study doesn’t differentiate between full or part-time jobs.  If a person has two – or more jobs – only the job that provides the largest portion of their total earning is considered.

The biggest takeaway from this segment of local employment dynamics is Johnson City fared better than that Kingsport or Bristol in several areas despite the fact that it had the deepest overall job losses and a decline in average private sector wages.


As expected most local cities had fewer primary jobs held by people who live where they work. What flew under the radar is one city grew the number of primary jobs between 2008 and 2014.

Johnson City, up 235

Bristol, down 1,330

Kingsport, down 976


The only gain in this category came for workers 55 and older who lived and worked in the area’s two largest cities. Johnson City again offered a surprise because the total number of workers in this age group increased more than it did in Kingsport. .


Workers who earned less than $40,000 a year declined in all three cities while those making more than $40,000 increased.

Johnson City had the largest increase of this higher income group by more than double the increase in Kingsport, which has a higher proportion of people in the 55-and-older age group in its base population.

Here is capsule look at the stand-out number for each community reflecting the local employment dynamics for jobs help by people who live in the same community where they work.

The first comparison will be the actual gain or loss. The second is the share of the group total and percent change from 2008.



Workers 29 and younger – down 385. 22.7% of jobs, down 0.7%.

Workers 30-53 – down 895. 54.9% of jobs down 1.4%.

Workers 55 and older – down 50. 22.4% of jobs, down 2.1%.

Earnings per month

$1,250 or less earnings – down 569. 25% share of jobs, down 2%.

$1,250 – $3,333 – down 855. 44.8% share of jobs, down 2.2%.

$3,333 or more – up 94. 30.2% share of jobs, up 4.2%.



Workers 29 and younger – down, 389. 24.3% share of jobs total, down 1.9%.

Workers 30-53 – down 133. 53.3% of jobs, down 1.1%.

Workers 55 and older – up 757. 22.4% share of jobs, up 3.1%.

Earnings per month

$1,250 or less earnings – down 691. 24.4% share, down 3.2%.

$1,250 – $3,333 – down 154. 41.5% share, down 1.1%.

$3,333 or more – up 1,080. 34% share, up 4.3%.



Workers 29 and younger – down 180. 22.3% share, up 0.2%

Workers 30-53 – down 1,345. 54.7% share down 3.8%.

Workers 55 and older – up 23% share of jobs, up 3.6%.

Earnings per month

$1,250 or less earnings – down 1,173. 23.9% of jobs, down 0.9%.

$1,250 – $3,333 – down 975. 38.8% share of jobs, down 2.8%.

$3,333 or more – up 436. 37.3% share, up 3.7%.




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