Non-farm jobs flirt with Tri-Cities pre-recession benchmark – recovery status

A hiring surge in the Kingsport-Bristol’s Leisure and Hospitality sector and an upward revision in March’s jobs pushed total Tri-Cities nonfarm employment above the pre-recession benchmark for the third straight month in April. Preliminary, nonadjusted numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) put April’s total at 205,900 jobs, 700 more than April 2008. At the same time, the seven-county region’s unemployment rate dropped to 3%. That’s the lowest it has been since 1990. That’s when the online version of the jobless rate cuts off.

April’s strong report mirrors the national report that saw the seasonally adjusted new jobs increase by 263,000 and the jobless rate falling to 3.6%.

Although Kingsport-Bristol hiring made April’s track against the prerecession Tri-Cities benchmark look good the four-county area’s jobs total still lags what it was before the recession. At the same time, the three-county Johnson City Metropolitan Statistical Area’s (MSA) jobs total has exceeded the benchmark for 10 straight months. In April there were 300 fewer nonfarm jobs in Kingsport-Bristol’s than April 2008.

The annual net jobs gains for the region last year was 500 – 400 in the Johnson City MSA and 100 in Kingsport-Bristol.

And there’s a reality bite to the record low jobless rate. While employment has been increasing, one reason the jobless rate is so low is there are fewer people in the labor force. April’s employment was 10,038 below the pre-recession benchmark, and there were 15,856 fewer people in the labor force. That’s a demographic structural issue driven by the region’s rapidly adding population.

But for those in the labor market and those who are thinking about getting back in it, the region continues to be at full employment. Basically, everyone who wants to work can find a job.

Kingsport-Bristol labor sectors adding jobs in April include: Trade and Transportation; Professional and Business Services; Other Services; and Leisure and Hospitality. The only sector reporting a month-over-month job loss is Government.

Johnson City MSA sectors adding jobs include: Construction; Manufacturing; Financial Activities; and Leisure and Hospitality. The Education and Health Care sector lost jobs.

According to the State Department of Labor and Workforce Development, unemployment rates for 94 counties dropped in April and unchanged in the last county.

Ninety-four counties had rates lower than 5%, and only one county’s rate was higher than 5%.