Business Pattern: Tri-Cities has best new establishment growth year in a decade


Tri-Cities business grow had its best year in a decade in 2017, according to the Census Bureau’s most current Business Patterns Report. That’s good news. It’s an annual average of 4.3 new firms a month.

The annual growth rate since 2014 – the first year there wasn’t an annual loss of firms since 2007- is less than half a percent a year. That’s in the slow-growth zone.  Still, the local economy is nibbling away at the loss of 543 businesses during the recession. Comparison to a pre-recession benchmark is common because much of the local economy has not – and in some cases may never – recover to pre-recession levels during the ongoing restructuring of the region’s economic base.

The big picture is the region had a net gain of 52 business establishments in 2017 that employed 169,841 workers – a 1,170 increase – and had a payroll of a little under $7 billion. That’s almost $147 million better than the previous year. The annual growth rate for the number of employees has been positive for the past two reports, but due to an aging population and fewer employers, there are 13,459 fewer employees than in 2007.

That current report covers the Johnson City – Kingsport Bristol TN VA Consolidated Statistical Area (CSA) comprising Washington, Carter, Unicoi, Sullivan, and Hawkins counties in NE Tenn. and Washington and Scott counties in SW Va.

It shouldn’t be of any surprise that the service sector leads in the number of gained establishments. A separate report – the October Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs survey – showed the ratio of service providing jobs to good producing jobs was 5-to-1. In 2017 it was a little more than 3-to-1.

The sector leading year-over-year growth was accommodations and food services. There were 43 more firms in that sector than in 2016. That sector includes jobs in accommodations and food services – including bars- the local performing arts, museums, amusement and gambling, and recreation industries.

The other services sector had the second-best number of establishments growth from the previous year.  This category includes repair and maintenance jobs. It also includes jobs with religious firms, grantmaking, civic and professional organizations, and private household employees.

The sector with the highest year-over-year losses was retail trade. While it leads in the total number of establishments, the retail apocalypse has taken a bite out of the Tri-Cities brick and mortar retail component just like it has nationwide.

The Census Bureau’s current count shows 1,762 retail establishments in the seven-county region. Those businesses employed 26,802 workers and have an annual payroll of $675.3 million. Compared to the 2007 total, that’s 229 fewer establishes and 266 fewer workers. The payroll has increased by $40.1 million since 2016. That’s the second-largest annual increase in the region and second to the management of businesses category.

Health care and social assistance employed the largest number of employees in 2017, followed by manufacturing, retail, and then accommodations and food services.

After those four categories, those four, the number of employees per sector declines.

In a separate report for 2018, the Bureau of Economic Analysis shows the CSA’s population increased by 1,238 people from 2017, and the per capita personal income was $40,169 up $1,680. The per capita income number is not adjusted for inflation.

The Business Patterns report is an annual series of statistics that provides subnational economic data by industry. It contains detailed annual information on the number of establishments, annual payroll, and number of employees on the metropolitan, county, and congressional district levels. Federal agencies use the data to determine employee concentrations and trends by industry. Private businesses use the data to analyze market potential, effectiveness of sales and adverting program and developing budgets. State and local governments use it to assess business changes, develop fiscal policies and plan future policies and programs.

Contact Don Fenley at djfenley@gmail.com for drill-down reports on establishments, employees, payroll on MSA or county level. Reports available for 2007 through 2017.



Categories: ECONOMY

1 reply

  1. Always thankful for the analysis, Mr. Fenley. Your graphics pinpoint your knowledge and are appreciated.

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