Tri-Cities labor market posts another solid growth month, adds 600 jobs


November’s Tri-Cities’ labor market report was a continuation of what is building to be one of the best years since the recession.

The local economy added a little over 600 nonfarm jobs in November while the number of people with jobs declined by almost 40 when compared to October’s total. The seven counties’ unemployment rate dropped to 3.2%. It was the 10th straight month the nonfarm jobs total was higher than the pre-recession benchmark and the fourth month the unemployment rate was been below 4%.

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The region covered by these reports is the Johnson City- Kingsport-Bristol TN-VA Consolidated Statistical Area (CSA) that included the region’s two Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MS)> The Johnson City  (MSA) includes Carter, Unicoi, Washington counties in NE Tenn. The Kingsport-Bristol TN-VA MSA comprises Hawkins and Sullivan counties in NE Tenn. and Scott and Washington counties in SW Va.

The only red flag was the unemployment rate. The 0.1% decline came with a decrease in employment and the labor force. When unemployment falls because of a drop in participation, it’s usually a bad sign. But so far this year, that has only happened twice so it’s more of a cyclical event that a trend indicator.

Those are nonadjusted, preliminary numbers from November’s Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs and household surveys. November’s report made a small adjustment that moved October’s jobs total slightly higher.

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So far, the year, the economy has added an average of 58 new nonfarm jobs a month. The employment average growth rate is 68 a month. There were 2,900 more jobs in the area than November last year, and 9,293 fewer people reporting that they had a job. Much of that employment loss comes from the region’s rapidly aging labor demographics.

The long-term labor market trend shows employment is increasing slightly faster than growth in the labor force indicating that idled workers are being drawn back into the labor force. The payroll jobs creation trend continues a slow, steady increase.

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Only one labor sector had a jobs loss from October. There were 100 fewer jobs in the mining, logging, and construction sector.

Government, other services, professional and business services, financial activities and trade, transportation, and utility all saw month-over-month job increases.

The other services, leisure and hospitality, education and health services, information, and manufacturing, reported no change from October job levels.

November’s U-6 unemployment rate was 6.9% down 0.1%. The U-6 unemployment rate counts “marginally attached workers and those working part-time for economic reasons” with those seeking full-time report, which is the base for the more familiar U-3 rate.  Some part-time workers counted as employed by U-3 could be working as little as an hour a week. And the “marginally attached workers” include those who have gotten discouraged and stopped looking, but still want to work. The age considered for this calculation is 16 years and over.

The U-6 rate is not calculated on the local level. Another indicator of the adds context to the labor market is Cornell’s Private Sector Job Quality Index. In November is was 82.39. A rating below 100 indicates a concentration or prevalence of low-quality jobs for that month.

Statewide, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 3.3%, down 0.1% from October.

The U.S. unemployment rate was 3.5%, down 0.1% from October. November’s U.S. jobs report was described as “stellar.” It exceeded Wall Street’s expectation and added 266,000 new jobs.

Unemployment dropped in more than one-third of Tennessee’s 95 counties in November, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Unemployment rates decreased in 38 counties, remained the same in 24 counties, and unemployment increased in 33 counties during the month.

November’s data shows there are 91 counties across the state with rates less than 5% and only four counties with rates greater than 5%.