Tri-Cities employers add 500 jobs in March; Johnson City metro continues strongest local job growth

Timeline of First Quarter nonfarm job totals.

Tri-Cities employers added 500 nonfarm jobs in March and the unemployment rate ticked up by 0.1%. Employment was 878 better than February’s total and the labor force increased by 1,218 people.

March’s labor market picture was an extension of what we’ve seen so far this year from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The three-county Johnson City Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) growth rate continued by a couple hundred jobs a month. So far this year the MSA’s total preliminary non-adjusted nonfarm jobs exceeded pre-recession benchmarks every month. The quarterly preliminary total is also 1.2% better than the pre-recession benchmark and has been positive every first quarter since 2015. That shows the Johnson City metro area labor market has recovered from the recession and has about a thousand jobs a month more than before the recession.

The trend is showing the seasonal decline but growth over the same periods last year.

Kingsport-Bristol continues to see growth – just at a slower pace. Employers added 100 jobs in March, but the four-county area’s quarterly jobs total was 0.9% below the pre-recession quarterly benchmark. The first three months of this year was an improvement over last year when job growth stalled during the first quarter. March’s jobs total was 1,600 below what it was March 2008.

Statewide all MSAs except Kingsport-Bristol and Morristown had job totals that exceeded the Q1 pre-recession benchmark. Those quarterly figures also show the Nashville, Cleveland, and Clarksville metro areas have job growth rates higher than the state rate. Knoxville and Johnson City are the only NE Tenn. metro areas with positive job growth rates on the Q1 comparison.

Nonfarm jobs continued to see slow growth but have not reached the pre-recession benchmark, yet.

The three-month moving average nonfarm job trend line declined for the third straight month in March, which is a seasonal norm.

Johnson City labor sectors that had job growth over February included: Education and Health Services; Leisure and Hospitality; Other Services and Government. The only sector with a month-over-month job loss was Professional and Business Services.

Kingsport-Bristol labor sectors showing month-over-month growth in March included: Government and Leisure and Hospitality. Sectors with month-over-month job losses were: Manufacturing; Trade, Transportation and Utilities and Professional and Business Services.

The Trade, Transportation, and Utilities sectors had the largest number of Tri-Cities employees in March (37,000) followed by Government (34,000); Education and Health Services (33,200); Manufacturing (28,800); Leisure and Hospitality (23,100); Professional and Business Services (20,900); Other Services (8,400); Mining, Logging and Construction (8,200); Financial Activities (8,000) and Information (2,400).

NE Tennessee’s three smaller metro areas were positive when compared to Q1 last year, but did not reach the state year-over-year growth level of 1.5%

Unemployment rates for the region, metro areas, counties and cities with 25,000 or more population were:

Tri-Cities, 3.7%

Johnson City MSA, 3.6%

Kingsport-Bristol MSA 3.7%

Carter Co. 4.1%

Greene Co. 4.5%

Hawkins Co. 3.9%

Kingsport-Bristol and Morristown are the only metro areas in the state that had a Q1 nonfarm job level less than the pre-recession level.

Johnson Co., 3.5%

Sullivan Co. 3.7%

Unicoi Co. 5%

Washington Co. 3.3%

Bristol, TN 3.8%

Johnson City 3.2%

Kingsport 3.8%

Tennessee 3.2%

U.S. 3.8%.