Where the Tri-Cities jobs are and what jobs are in demand

It will be a couple of weeks before the local December labor market data will be available, but there are some late adds to November’s report worthy of consideration.


MTSU’s labor market heat charts are one way to get a partial tracking of where employers are adding jobs. It’s a monthly year-over-year tracking by labor sector. Here’s how November looked for the Tri-Cities’ two Metropolitan Statistical Areas:

Johnson City

Leisure and Hospitality – up 3.2%

Government – up 3%.

Financial Activities – up 2.3%.

Professional and Business Services, up 2.2%.

Construction, Wholesale Trade, Information, Education and Health Services and Other Services were flat while Retail Trade, Manufacturing and Transportation and Utilities were negative.


Transportation and Utilities – up 4%.

Wholesale Trade – up 2.3%.

Other Services – up 1.9%.

Education and Health Services – up 1.1%.

Government – up 0.6%.

Professional and Business Services and Financial Activities were flat while the other sectors were negative.

Those heat maps can be found at:

Kingsport-Bristol http://capone.mtsu.edu/berc/tacir/kingsportbristoljobs.html

Johnson City http://capone.mtsu.edu/berc/tacir/johnsoncityjobs.html

The chart with this report shows job levels by labor category for November using Bureau of Labor Statistics “The economy at a glance” data. The totals are expressed in thousands of jobs.

The big question is how many good-paying jobs are being created vs. how many weak jobs is the economy creating.

That’s a tough issue. And it’s dicey to attach a label to some job categories. For instance, the Health and Education Services category ranges from some of the region’s highest paying jobs to some of the lowest. Other Services has some jobs that feed the lower-pay and part-time labor force but also includes some high-paying trade jobs.

The Census Bureau’s Business Patterns analysis shows that between 2007 and 2015 the Tri-Cities economy added jobs in the Heath Care and Social Assistance; Transportation and Warehousing; Management of Companies; Education Services, Accommodation, and Food Services. 2016 data will be available mid-year.

The biggest gain was 2,566 Health Care and Social Assistance Jobs. Subsets in that area continue to be tagged by the state labor department as high growth jobs for the local labor market. The biggest demand will be for nursing assistants. The projected growth is 110 jobs a year at an average salary of $22,492.

The state projects the labor market area that includes most of the Tri-Cities will see 1,790 job openings on its top jobs growth list. The number doesn’t include all job categories, and it isn’t balanced by job losses.

The biggest demand is customer service representatives, 210 jobs at an average salary of $25,100. The biggest demand and best salary is for sales managers, 15 jobs at an average salary of $113,014. The projection for physicians and surgeons is 35 a year, but there is no salary attached to that number.

Of the 1,755 projected job creations that include average salaries, 495 have an average pay of $40,000 and up. The rests are lower. Using those projections, the local economy is creating about three low-paying jobs for every job that pays $40,000 or more.  That lines up with the research that says a local economy is one-third high paying jobs and two-thirds lower paying jobs.

Another big picture consideration for the big picture outlook is retirement.

Overall demographic trends dictate that companies are losing a lot of top and upper-middle level jobs to retirement. At the same time, some companies are pushing those employees into retirement to improve the bottom line.

However, if a top executive retires and is replaced it’s not counted as a new job in any of the standard data. And since a replacement will not step into those jobs at the same salary level as the person retiring it tamps down that subsectors’ overall wage level.

What all of this says is the need for good data seriously lags what the government collects and reports. At the same time funding for data collection at almost all government levels is being cut. Some cuts are for fiscal reasons, others have a political motivation.

December’s local labor market data will be available at the end of January. A report on the November release can be found at https://donfenley.com/2017/12/31/will-the-tri-cities-have-enough-workers-for-its-open-jobs/



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