Jan. Tri-Cities labor market reports show gains, job creation growth rate shows signs of slowing

January’s Tri-Cities labor market data showed up late  – everybody is already talking about the February numbers – with some revised messages.

After an annual revision, the jobs and employment reports show a labor market that’s still recovering from the Great Recession – just not quite as fast as earlier reported. At the same time, the labor force is growing. That’s a sign that more people are encouraged about the jobs outlook and are looking. There’s also a lot of “hiring” signs at local businesses, and some employers continue to actively recruit for workers with higher-level, or specific, skills.

Preliminary, non-adjusted numbers from January’s reports show the region began the year with 1,300 more nonfarm jobs than January last year. The three-month moving average for the payroll report also showed the jobs growth rate trend turning higher after seven months of slow decline. The employment trend from the household report showed the opposite. But the rule of thumb is when the jobs and employment reports report conflicting data go with the jobs report since it’s the larger and more reliable report.

The annual revision ratcheted annual nonfarm job growth down from earlier reports by 900 – 200 fewer in the Johnson City Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and 700 in the Kingsport-Bristol MSA. The 2016 annual jobs total was up by 1,900, but that’s still 1,300 short of the pre-recession high.

Both of the region’s MSAs began the year with more nonfarm jobs than January last year. Johnson City was up by 800 while Kingsport-Bristol’s year-over-year total was up 500.

Revised annual year-end totals show the Johnson City MSA was 1,600 behind the pre-recession high. Kingsport-Bristol is 1,500 nonfarm jobs under the pre-recession level.

Both MSAs entered the year with a decline in the three-month moving average trend line. The annual revision also increased the growth rate for the Johnson City metro area and weakened the Kingsport-Bristol progress. This dovetails with a recent National Association of Counties update that ranked the real gross domestic product for the three counties of the Johnson City MSA as recovered from the recession, but none of the four counties in the Kingsport-Bristol MSA were ranked with a gdp recovery status.

After the annual revision was factored in, January’s growth rate trend broke a 29-month Johnson City MSA growth streak. Kingsport-Bristol’s revision shows 16 months of job gains before the January dipped into negative territory.

Tri-Cities – employment, labor force

January’s regional unemployment rate jumped to a 17-month high of 6.1%, up 0.8%.

Year-over-year employment was down by 124 people while the labor force increased by 1,948.  The labor force gain is good news because it indicates more people are encouraged enough with conditions to look for a job. That increase can also be seen on the MSA and city levels.  The downside is January’s labor force was down 20,631 people from the pre-recession high. The number of people employed was 22,322 less in January than it was at the pre-recession high.

The moving trend lines for both employment and the labor force are positive on the year-over-year comparison but arching downward for the rate of growth. The labor force peaked in October and employment peaked in September.

 Jonson City MSA employment, labor force

January’s unemployment rate increased 0.9% to 6.5%.

Employment improved by 1,060 people compared to January last year and the labor force increase was almost double that at 2,099.

Compared to the pre-recession high employment is down 11,985 people and the labor force is down 10,756.

Johnson City’s employment growth rate trend line was down for the second straight month in January after 15 straight year-over-year gains on the moving average.

Kingsport-Bristol MSA employment, labor force
January’s unemployment rate increased by 0.7% to 5.9%.

Employment was down 1,184 compared to January last year breaking a 14-month growth trend. The labor force was down 141.

Compared to the pre-recession high, January employment was down by 9,862 people, and the labor force was down 10,899.

The employment tends line began receding in October. In January, the growth rate had dropped from 2.3% to 0.5%

Bristol employment – labor force

January’s unemployment rate was 6.2%, up 0.5% from December.

The year-over-year comparison shows there were 76 fewer people employed in January and the labor force increased by 55 people.

Compared to the pre-recession highs, January’s employment was down 1,294, and the labor force was down 1,067.

The employment and labor force trend lines for Bristol were still showing growth in January, but the rate of growth is declining. Both peaked in September and have the rate of growth has declined every month since them.

Johnson City employment – labor force

January’s unemployment rate increased 0.6% to 5.5%.

Employment was up 2,221 compared to January last year, and the labor force saw an increase of 785 people.

Compared to the pre-recession high the labor force in January was down 1,871, and there were 823 fewer people employed.

The employment and labor force growth trends are – like the other cities – is softening. Employment was up 2.8%, but that was a retreat from nine straight months of 3% or better growth. The rate peaked in September, stayed flat until November then began receding.  The labor force softening hasn’t been as dramatic as employment. It peaked at 3% in October, stayed there in November then ebbed lower. In January, it was 2.7%.

Kingsport employment – labor force

Unemployment increased by a full point to 6.5% in January

There were 101 fewer people employed than there were in January 2015 and the labor force was up 174 people. Unlike the other cities in the region, Kingsport’s employment and labor force are higher than their pre-recession highs.

In January employment was 3,101 better than the pre-recession high and the labor force was up 2,358.

Like the other cities, the labor force and employment growth rate are slipping.

The year-over-year employment change in the three-month moving average was in the 3% or better range since March last year until November when it dipped to 2.9%. It had dropped to 1.1% in January.

The labor force trend hit 3.1% growth in September but could only sustain it for two months. It had dropped to 1.5% by January.