Mid-year wage corrections illustrate bumpy road in Kingsport-Bristol


The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) mid-year average private sector wage corrections are complete. The result was half of the monthly averages in the four-county Kingsport-Bristol Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) were lowered and the Tri-Cities’ two metro areas area again at the bottom of state pay rankings.

There’s a caveat to consider when looking at monthly BLS average private sector wages because they don’t always align with other wage data. They are often adjusted during the year when additional wage information becomes available. And, since the regional total employment picture includes a hefty portion of government and what the BLS classified as “government-owned” jobs the private sector is not representative of the total wage picture.

With that said, Kingsport-Bristol has the lowest average private sector wage in Tri-Cities and the state of Tennessee in June.

Year-over-year change in monthly private sector wage averages.

Compared to last year, Kingsport-Bristol’s average private sector wages increased three months and declined three months. June’s average of $623.40 was $12.05 below June last year. So far this year workers are seeing wages that are about $10 a week lower than the 2017 annual average. A long-view shows the monthly year-over-year comparison has been down for 13 of the past 16 months.

Kingsport-Bristol’s pre-recession, inflation-adjusted comparison shows private sector workers have an average of $18.40 a week more buying power than they did in June 2008. That’s a 3% improvement and shows how stagnant private sector wages have been.

Private sector workers in the three-county Johnson City MSA saw another solid wage gain average in June. The $706.30 average was $39.56 better than June last year for a 5.9% improvement. The year-over-year monthly comparison shows the average has increased every month except four in 2015. Those gains followed four years of annual average declines from 2012 through 2015.

Average weekly private sector wages so far this year.

Johnson City’s job losses this year have predominately been in the government sector, so they have not been an anchor on the private sector gains. The Johnson City metro area is the only MSA in Tennessee that has been seen consistently monthly job losses this year. A year-to-date average loss is 70 a month.

The net effect of those government job losses should begin showing up when the quarterly census of employment and wages begin trickling down from the BLS.

The difference between the 2016 annual average weekly private sector wage and the annual average total wages was about $100 a week.

On a brighter note, the pre-recession private sector wage comparison in June shows Johnson City MSA workers have $51.30 a week more buying power than they did before the recession. That’s a 7.8% improvement. Although not as drastic as the 10-year picture in Kingsport-Bristol it’s still an indicator for overall stagnant private sector wages.

June’s wage report shows the Nashville MSA had the highest average private sector wage in Tennessee – $933. It was slightly better than the U.S. average of $929.

The Knoxville MSA is the only metro average in Northeast Tennessee with a higher than the state average of $819 a week.

June averages from the Bureau of Labor Statistics

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