Tri-Cities jobs market slogs through seasonal slump with a trend increase

The Tri-Cities jobs market is plowing its way through seasonal slowdowns with a steady momentum toward making 2019 the year it officially recovers from the Great Recession. June, July, and August are typically the bottom of the year’s labor market when looking at non-adjusted jobs and employment numbers. This year is no exception. But the longer-term outlook is positive. The three-month moving trend began an upward march in February that has not waned.

There were 1,200 fewer nonfarm jobs in July than in June. The churn was the highest it has been since 2015 when employers added 100 jobs from the previous month’s total.  June and July are typically the lowest months of the year for non-seasonally adjusted nonfarm jobs numbers. August is the normal low point in the non-adjusted employment count.

Most of the July jobs decrease was rooted in a 1,900 adjustment to the June preliminary non-adjusted count for the Johnson City Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). It’s a rare month when there’s no downward adjustment in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) jobs report, but the June JC MSA correction was larger than normal. Kingsport-Bristol’s June preliminary data did not change. Adjustments are the result of new data that was not available for the target month’s preliminary report. The annual “hard” number doesn’t come until the annual adjustment in early 2020.

Looking past the seasonal churn and adjustments and the Tri-Cities labor market picture looks pretty good. There were 3,200 more jobs than July last year and 1,700 more than there were in July 2008 – the year before the Great Recession hit the local economy. The number of jobs has been above that pre-recession benchmark for six straight months so given this year’s current conditions the odds of 2019 being the year the labor market recovered from the recession are building.

July also saw a hefty employment and labor force increase from last year’s total.  There was a small drop from June’s employment total and an increase in the labor force, so the region’s unemployment rate increased 0.2 points to 4.5%. That’s the so-called official unemployment or U3 unemployment rate, which is at less half of the U6 or real employment rate. July’s official jobless rate was 3.7%, and the U6 rate was 7.2%. It’s higher because U6 counts the marginally attached workers and those working part-time for economic reasons as unemployed along with those looking for full-time employment as unemployed. The U6 rate is not calculated at the county or MSA level.

Unlike the region’s nonfarm job situation, employment is nowhere near its pre-recession level, and recovery to those levels is nowhere in sight. The primary reason is demographic. Workers are aging out of the labor market at a rapid rate and although many elders have re-entered the tight labor market and others are putting off retirement as long as possible the truism that an aging demographic means fewer workers. That also means a drop in productivity for the region’s economy unless a new technology is introduced to counter the human loss.

July’s employment was 7.9% better than July last year and 11,315 fewer than the pre-recession high.

July labor force was 3.4% better than July last year and 13,281 fewer people than the pre-recession high.

July’s monthly job losses in the three-county Johnson City MSA came in thee supersectors: mining, logging and construction; manufacturing; and financial activities. Professional and business services and the government sector posted small job increases.

Losses in the four-county Kingsport-Bristol MSA came in manufacturing, trade, transportation and utilities; information, professional and business services; other services; and government. The number of jobs in the leisure and hospitalities sector increased.

MSTS’s jobs heat charts that track the year-over-year activity of job sectors in the region’s two metro areas can be found at:

Kingsport Bristol  

It short, it shows this year’s biggest job growth came in the professional and business and leisure and hospitality sectors.

Johnson City MSA

The year-over-year tracking shows the biggest job gains in the government, other services, and leisure and hospitality sectors.

Tennessee July employment report shows unemployment rates inched upward in 93 of the state’s 95 counties last month.

“Due to a variety of factors, it’s not unusual to see unemployment increase on the county level during the summer months,” said Tenn. Dept. of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Jeff McCord. “We’ll continue to monitor these rates as we finish the summer and move into fall.”



Categories: LABOR MARKET