Tri-Cities sees small 2018 population increase; Johnson City MSA median household income up, down in Kingsport-Bristol

The Census Bureau’s latest report had some good and some not-so-good news for the Tri-Cities.  A quick first pass on the 2018 American Community Survey 1-year estimates show a continuation of a slow and uneven restructuring of the seven-county region’s two metro areas. Here’s a capsule look at the ups and down in the 2018 Census estimates.

The Kingsport-Bristol Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) comprises Hawkins and Sullivan counties in NE Tenn. and Scott and Washington counties in SW Va. The Johnson City MSA comprises Washington, Carter, and Unicoi counties. Combined they are the Johnson City Kingsport Bristol TN VA Consolidated Statistical Area. More detailed reports on the population, labor market, and housing will be added in the coming weeks:


There was a small regional population increase of 1,107 (0.22%) from 2017. The 2018 Tri-Cities population was 510,483.

Kingsport-Bristol’s population was 306,562. It increased by 648 people – a 0.21% increase

The Johnson City’s MSA population was 203,921. It increased by 459 people – a 0.23% increase.

Kingsport-Bristol’s median age dropped to 45.4 from 45.5 while the Johnson City metro area’s median increased to 42.7 from 41.6.

The dominant age group in both metro areas was 45 to 54 years old – 13.6% in Johnson City and 14.1% of the population in Kingsport-Bristol.

Kingsport-Bristol residents 65 and older accounted for 22.3% of the MSAs total population while that age group accounted for 17.5% of the Johnson City MSA’s total population.


The median household income increased in the Johnson City MSA last year and decreased in Kingsport-Bristol. The median is the point where half of the households had a higher income, and half had less.

The Johnson City income increased to $45,839 from $40,663. It was $41,957 in Kingsport-Bristol, down from $43,516.

Per capita income increased to $27,441 from $25,778 in Johnson City and increase to $26,194 from $26,042 in Kingsport-Bristol.

Median earnings for workers in Kingsport-Bristol was $29,617 up from $26,584. It was $27,299 in Johnson City, up from $26,832 in 2017.

A Kingsport-Bristol male full-time worker, working year-round had median earnings of $45,111 in 2018, up from $41,455 in 2017. In the Johnson City metro area, it was $44,011, up from $41,076.

Female full-time workers working year-round lost ground across the board. Their median earning in the Johnson City metro area declined to $32,278 from $33,640. In Kingsport-Bristol the current median is $33,564, down from $34,581.


Households with median incomes of $35,000 to $49,999 and $50,000 to 74,999 continue accounting for the largest share of all households in the region.

Johnson City’s dominant household by income group is $50,000-$74,999. It accounts for 18.7% of all households in that metro area. Compared to the 2017 share of households it increased by 2.2%. The largest year-over-year increase in the share of total households came in the $75,000-$99,999 range. It was up 2.8%.

Kingsport-Bristol’s dominant household by income group by income was also the $50,000-$74,999. It accounted for 16.9% of all the MSA’s households. That share decreased by 2.3% of the 2017 chare. The largest year-over-year increase was in households with a median income of $15,000-$24,999, up 1.5%. Close behind was a 1.3% increase in the number of households with a median income of $75,000 to $99,999.

A recent report from the Federal Reserve put the 2018 middle-class income range at $40,000 to $85,000.


The number of people in the Tri-Cities labor force last year was 227,185, down 5,656 from 20176. The working-age population in the Johnson City MSA labor force was 55.8%, down from 56.8% in 2017. In Kingsport-Bristol it was 52.1%, down from 54.1%. The primary reason for the decline is the number of people who are aging out of the labor market.

Management, business, science, and arts occupations accounted for the largest share of jobs in the region – 34.8% in Kingsport-Bristol and 37.5% in Johnson City.  The occupational share increased in Johnson City by 0.9% and by 3.1% in Kingsport-Bristol

Service occupations accounted for the second-largest share of jobs – 18.2% in Kingsport-Bristol and 17.9% in Johnson City. The occupational share increased by 1% in Johnson City but decreased in Kingsport-Bristol by 2.1%.

Education service, and health care and social assistance continued as the primary labor sector accounting for 27.9 % of Johnson City MSA jobs and 26.2% of Kingsport-Bristol jobs. That labor sector’s share of total jobs in the Johnson City MSA declined by 2% from 2017 and increased by 3.5% in Kingsport-Bristol.

Manufacturing’s share of the jobs was 15.3% in Kingsport-Bristol, down from 17.3% in 2017 and 10.3% in the Johnson City MSA down from 15%. The region lost a total of 7,655 manufacturing jobs in 2018.

Retail continued to be a major job sector, but like other components, the distribution between the metro areas is shifting. It accounted for 14.3% of Johnson City jobs, up from 12.3% in 2017.  Kingsport-Bristol’s share of retail jobs declined from 12.9% to 12.1%.

There were 172,766 private wage and salary workers in the Tri-Cities in 2018, down from 174,651 in 2017. The number of government workers was 30,400, down from 31,626 in 2017.

Kingsport-Bristol had the largest number of both worker classes   99,711 private-sector workers and 17,565 government workers. The number of private wage workers in the Johnson City metro area was 73,055 while the government worker total was 12,835.


The poverty rate for all people in Kingsport-Bristol increased to 17.5% from 15.3% in 2017 and declined to 16.1% from 17% in the Johnson City metro area.

Families with a female householder – no husband present – and a child, or children, under 18 is the highest poverty component in both metro areas. It was 57%, up from 48.7%, in Kingsport-Bristol and 40.1%, down from 59.9%, in the Johnson City metro area.

There were 14,422 Tri-Cities households receiving Supplemental Social Security checks in 2018. The share of households in the Johnson City MSA increased to 6.5% from 4.4% while it was unchanged at 7.1% in Kingsport-Bristol.

A total of 3,486 households received cash public assistance in the region last year.  The share of total households was down in both metro areas. In Kingsport-Bristol it was 1.9% of households down from 2.6%. In Johnson City, it was 1.2% of households down from 1.5% in 2017.

A total of 32,187 households received food stamps. The share of households receiving food stamps declined to 14.1% from 14.5% in the Johnson City metro area and increased to 16% from 14.9% in Kingsport-Bristol.


Individuals with health insurance coverage accounted for 91.4% (183,565) in the Johnson City metro area and 90.1% (272,599) in Kingsport-Bristol. That’s up 1.4% in the Johnson City MSA and down 2.2% in Kingsport-Bristol.

The report shows 47,110 Tri-Cities residents had no health insurance in 2018 an increase of 3,858 the year before.