Tri-Cities job growth rate slows, August private sector wages up

The Tri-Cities nonfarm job growth rate dropped a little in August but not enough to upset a four-month positive trend. The August preliminary, non-seasonal adjusted total was 1,700 better than August last year. Employment was also up as the region began coming out of its seasonal slump. The unemployment rate dropped to 4%.

Private sector jobs were down 100 from July, but 1,500 better than August last year.  The three-county Johnson City Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) reversed two months of flat private sector job performance for a loss of 200 jobs. It was the only MSA in the state with a private sector year-over-year job loss. Chattanooga and Johnson City were negative when compared to last year’s nonfarm job totals.


The nonfarm job three-month moving average trend for the Tri-Cities’ two metro area shows the year-over-year gain for Johnson City on a plateau just above the negative line in a four-month improvement cycle. The four-county Kingsport-Bristol MSA’s trend has grown every month since February.

Like the nonfarm jobs growth rate, the employment and labor force growth rates slowed in August but remained positive compared to last year. When compared to pre-recession highs, the region’s labor force was down by 21,956 and 18,168 fewer people were employed.  An aging workforce and an economy resetting from a manufacturing base to a service sector base account for those declines. There were 2,400 fewer nonfarm jobs in the seven-county region in August than the August 2007 pre-recession high.

Kingsport-Bristol had two job sectors showing job losses from August last year. They were construction and information. The Johnson City MSA had year-over-year losses in other services, education and health services, and trade transportation and utilities.


Private sector wages in both metro areas were when compared to last year.

The preliminary, unadjusted weekly average in Kingsport-Bristol was $636.14, up 2.5%. It was the fourth month wages have increased in the metro area this year. The preliminary hourly average for private sector workers was $17.97.

Johnson City’s 7.4% August increase brought the weekly average to $718.64. Private sector workers in that metro area have seen their wages increase every month this year. The August preliminary hourly average was $20.13.

Compared to other metro areas in the state, Kingsport-Bristol continues to be at the bottom of the list with the lowest private sector wage in the state. The Johnson City metro area is fourth from the bottom.  Nashville had the highest weekly average, $942, followed by the Knoxville MSA at $922.

According to the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the unemployment rates were down in 86 of the state’s 95 counties in August.

Williamson County continued to have the state lowest jobless rate – 2.8%.


Unemployment rates for Tri-Cities area counties and cities above 25,000 population were:

Carter – 4.5%.

Greene – 5.1%.

Johnson – 3.7%.

Hawkins – 4.3%.

Sullivan – 4%.

Unicoi – 5.2%.

Washington – 4.0.

Bristol – 3.9%.

Johnson City – 3.9%.

Kingsport – 4.1%.


The state unemployment rate was 3.6% and the national rate was 3.9%.

The national U-6 unemployment rate was 7.4%. That’s the lowest it has been since April 2001.

Unlike the U-3 rate, which is most used jobless metric, the U6 rate counts not only people without work looking for full-time jobs but marginally attached workers and those working part-time for economic reasons. Some of these part-time workers counted as employed in the U-3 report could be working as little as an hour a week.