Tri-Cities jobs, employment increases in Sept. – no sign of a slow down, yet

Tri-Citie labor market trend

The Tri-Cities labor market has moved beyond the seasonal slump now that schools are back in session. Employers continue adding non-farm jobs, and employment is higher without signs of slow-down.

So far this year, employers have added an average of 48 new non-farm jobs a month. Last year’s monthly job growth rate at year-end was 42 a month, so the slowdown in hiring that you hear so much in media reports hasn’t shown up in the local market, yet. At the same time, the number of people with jobs has been increasing at an average of 20 a month.

The 12-month moving average trend metric for September shows non-farm jobs are up 1.1% from last year. That number has been slowly increasing since April. The trend for employment shows it’s 2.3% better than last year. It has been increasing since May. The labor force trend is 2.1% better than September. It has also been posting monthly gains since March. One other trend metric of note is the gap between the labor force and employment has been narrowing since March last year. For the past three months, that gap was 0.18%. That’s an indication the labor force participation rate is improving.

2019 preliminary, non-adjusted non-farm jobs.

The total number of non-farm jobs in the seven-county Johnson City – Kingsport- Bristol TN VA Consolidated Statistical Area (CSA) in September was 205,800, up 2,200 from September last year and 2,100 betters than the 2008 pre-recession benchmark. That number is the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s preliminary, non-adjusted total. It’s also the jobs total from the Kingsport-Bristol Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) added to the Johnson City MSA’s total. The BLS does not report CSA-level data in its monthly reports.

Employment, which is reported on the CAS level, for September was 226,682, up 7,572 from September last year. When compared to the pre-recession benchmark there are 10,652 fewer people in the Tri-Cities area who have jobs.

Year-over-year change in employment and labor force moving averages.

At one time, the Tri-Cities area was one MSA. It was split into two about 20 years ago. The Johnson City MSA comprises Carter, Unicoi, and Washington counties in NE Tenn. The Kingsport-Bristol MSA comprises Hawkins and Washington counties in NE Tenn. and Scott and Washington counties in SW Va.

September’s unemployment rate was 3.3%, down 0.3%, last month. That a full-employment number. It’s also a record low and is what Nobel-winning economist Robert Shiller calls a fuzzy number. ETSU economist Steb Hipple, who is now retired, once called the U3 unemployment rate the worst piece of data produced by the federal government.

Although the U3 rate is the standard used by politicians and the media, it’s a poor labor market indicator because it doesn’t reflect today’s workplace. It’s criticized because it gives the impression that the labor market is healthier than an alternative measure would show. The U6 is the BLS’s most comprehensive metric because it accounts for marginally attached workers and those who have been forced to settle for part-time work even though want to work full-time.

Septembers U.S.  U6 rate was 6.9% – the lowest monthly rate since 2000 – compared to the U3 rate of 3.5%. The U6 rate is not calculated on the state or local levels.

Preliminary BSL numbers show Johnson City’s government sector was the only growth labor sector last month. The trade, transportation and utilities, and leisure and hospitality sectors lost jobs last month.

Both the government and education and health services sectors had job increases in Kingsport-Bristol. Construction, professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, and other services all had fewer jobs than they did in August.


Categories: LABOR MARKET