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%.

Categories: CORE DATA

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