Preliminary wage data show Johnson City MSA gains; softness in Kingsport-Bristol

Annualized wages increased during the first half of this year in the Johnson City Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) while volitivity in Kingsport-Bristol MSA federal sector had the opposite effect in its four-county area.

A 2.1% Q2 increase put the annualized Johnson City MSA total wages 2.7% ($1,092) above last year’s total. That’s preliminary data from the Census Bureau’s-Bureau of Labor Statistics’ State and County Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. Since the data is preliminary, it will be adjusted in upcoming reports as more detailed information is obtained.

The Q2 preliminary total wage in Kingsport-Bristol was up 2.7% on the heels of a 2.4% decrease during Q1. The annualized total is 1.4% less ($624) than the 2017 annual total. The primary reason it’s down is federal workers in the four-county metro area saw a 4.1% average weekly wage decrease in Q1 and a 1.4% cut in Q2 while the total number of federal workers did not change. Although the federal workforce is the smallest component of the government workers in Kingsport-Bristol – and the region – its average wage structure is higher than state and local government workers and the private sector. Even with the quarter-to-quarter wage declines this year the average wage for a federal worker in Kingsport-Bristol was 53% higher than the average for a private-sector worker. It was 96% higher than the average private-sector weekly wage in the Johnson City MSA.

Private sector and local government workers in Kingsport-Bristol saw increases in their weekly averages. Local government workers saw a 2% increase while the private sector weekly average was up 1.4%. The weekly average for state government workers was down 0.1% in Q2, following a 10.5% Q1 increase.

The Johnson City MSA comprises Washington, Carter, and Unicoi counties in NE Tenn.  The Kingsport-Bristol MSA comprises Hawkins and Washington counties in NE Tenn. and Scott and Washington counties in SW Va.

Annual wages in both of the Tri-Cities two metro areas have been increases as more jobs have been added. Employment is also up.  Johnson City MSA average wage increased by 2.7% in 2019 and 3.6% in 2018. The 2018 increase in Kingsport-Bristol was 3.8%, following a 2.9% 2017 increase. Those increases are not adjusted for inflation.

October’s moving average nonfarm jobs trend was up 1.2%. That’s the highest it has been since August of 2012. So far this year, the monthly number of jobs has exceeded monthly pre-recession benchmarks every month except January. At the current growth rate, 2019 will be the year the local jobs economy will reach recovery from the Great Recession status.

The challenge is the quality of the new jobs since the majority are in the lower-paying sectors. The real median household income for both local MSA has not recovered to pre-recession highs.

Another indicator of the local economic well-being is the Wealth Index. All of the current indexes for the region’s seven counties are below their respective state indexes and the national level.

They are:


Sullivan – 80

Hawkins – 53

Washington VA – 83

Scott – 52

Bristol, VA – 53

Johnson City MSA:

Washington – 77

Carter – 46

Unicoi – 51

The Tennessee index is 81. In Virginia, it’s 124.

The Wealth Index is based on a number of indicators of affluence including average household income and average net worth. It includes the value of material possessions and resources. It represents the wealth of the area relative to the national level. Values above 100 represent above-average wealth, and those below represent below-average wealth compared to the national level. Cost of living is not factored into the Wealth Index.



Categories: ECONOMY