2016 was a growth year for Tri-Cities job creation, employment

2016 was a good year for the Tri-Cities labor market. Employers added 2,400 nonfarm jobs despite a steadily decreasing growth rate. Employment and the labor force increased from 2015 totals, and the average annual unemployment rate of 5% was a nine-year low.


Year-over-year change non-farm jobs and employment

Year-over-year job creation peaked in March at 1.9% then declined every month ending at 0.3% in December. That progression is based on a three-month moving average of Bureau of Labor Statistics non-adjusted, preliminary monthly reports. Since the numbers are preliminary, there’s a slight adjustment in each following month’s report. But those adjustments are minor and don’t change the big picture. The moving average is used to remove some of the seasonal noise from unadjusted job numbers. The long-term trend, based on a 12-month rolling average, shows regional job creation basically flat-lined in July.

Trends data aside, 2016 was a strong labor market growth year. Annual year-over-year gains were the highest in five years. But, the jobs total is still 3,700 shy of the annual pre-recession high. However, that’s not all a factor of job creation. Labor force participation down due to the number of people aging out of the labor force and those who have stopped looking for work.

The annual employment total in the seven-county region was up 5,087 from 2015, and the labor force was up by 3,229. Compared to pre-recession highs, the 2016 labor force was down by slightly more than 19,000 and employment were down 16,121.

December’s non-farm job total was 500 better than December 2015. Employment was 3,859 better than December 2015, and the labor force was up 3,186. The unemployment rate was 5.2%, up 0.3% from November.


On the metro level job creation in the three-county, Johnson City MSA outperformed the four-county Kingsport-Bristol MSA for the fourth straight month. And the annual year-over-year jobs growth rate was higher than Kingsport-Bristol for the third year in a row.


Year-over-year change non-farm job

Johnson City’s metro area’s December job creation rate ticked up to 1.2% over December last year, and the preliminary annual average was 1.3% higher than 2015, which was 1.3% better than 2014. Johnson City annual job growth has been up for three straight year and the 2016 total is 500 below the pre-recession benchmark.

The annual average employment total was 2,681 better than 2015, and the labor force was up 1,825. Compared to pre-recession highs last year’s labor force was down 10,286 and employment was down 9,770. Last year’s average unemployment rate was 5.1%, the lowest rate since 2007.

Non-farm jobs in December were 1,200 better than December 2015.

December’s unemployment rate was 5.5%, up 0.4%. Employment was 2,591 more than December 2015, and the labor force was 2,521 higher.


Kingsport-Bristol has seen a longer succession of annual jobs gain that its neighbor to the south, but the increases have not been as strong for the past three years.   On the brighter side, Kingsport-Bristol finished the year with 1,400 more jobs than 2015. The annual total was 800 fewer than the pre-recession high.

Annual average employment was up 2,406 from 2015 and the labor force increased by 1,404. Compared to the pre-recession high the labor force is down 8,837 and employment is 7,417 lower. The 2016 average unemployment rate was 4.9%, the lowest since 2007.


Annual year-over-year change non-farm jobs

December’s non-farm jobs total was 700 below what it was December 2015. It was the fourth month that the year-over-year comparisons were negative.

December’s unemployment rate was 5.2%, up 0.2%. Employment was 1,268 higher than December last year and the labor force increased by 1,295.

Here’s a capsule look at the 2016 non-adjusted, preliminary average for the area’s three major cities compared to the 2015 annual totals and the December year-over-year indicators.


2016 average unemployment 5.5%, lowest since 2008

2016 employment, up 321

2016 labor force, up 282

Compared to the pre-recession high 2016 employment was down 884 and the labor force was down 970.

December unemployment rate 5.7%, up 0.6%

December employment, up 249 from December 2015.

December labor force, up 199


2016 annual average unemployment 5%, the lowest since 2008

2016 employment, up 932

2016 labor force up 568

Compared to the pre-recession high employment is down 1,193 and the labor force is down by 1,700.

December unemployment rate 4.9%, up 0.2%

December employment, up 2,402 from December 2015.

December labor force, up 817


Kingsport is the only city in the region where employment and the labor force are higher than they were before the Great Recession.

2016 annual average employment 5.2%, the lowest since 2007

2016 employment, up 622

2016 labor force, up 472

Compared to a 2008 pre-recession benchmark employment is up 3,016 and the labor force is up 3,187.

December unemployment rate 5.5, up 0.1%.

December employment, up 323 from December 2015.

December labor force up 334