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.

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