Adjustment lowers Tri-Cities jobs picture – look for things to get worse

The jobs adjustment from December’s preliminary number wasn’t good news for the Tri-Cities. And – like the national labor picture – things are going to get worse. February’s local labor market data will be available early in April, but the big picture from COVID-19 won’t become until March, April, and May.

We’re already seeing furloughs, layoffs, and some businesses closing, and we’ve still very early into the process.

A downward adjustment of the preliminary Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) December jobs report dropped the 2019 Tri-Cities from a net gain of 550 last year to 192. The region still has more jobs than the pre-recession benchmark, but the adjustment shows the economy is adding jobs at an average rate of 16 a month instead of 42.  New job creation peaked in 2016 and has declined every year since then.


The silver lining is employment, and labor force participation continues to increase. The growth rates are slowing with the slow job creation growth, and it doesn’t mean either of those will get back to pre-recession levels. One of the constants about a rapidly adding demographics is there are fewer workers. Fewer workers mean a decrease in the region’s productivity, which results in a smaller economy unless there’s a new technology introduced that balances the loss of workers.

January’s labor force was 607 people more than it was January last year. But the total is down 21,155 from pre-recession levels.


There were 72 more people employed in the seven-county Tri-Cities region, but 17,988 fewer than there were before the Great Recession.

None of the 10 job sectors had growth from December.

COVID-19 related layoffs begin in mid-March as many restaurants curtailed or limited dine-in options. Non-essential businesses also began closing their offices and instructing employees to work from home where they could.

So far, Tennessee’s governor has not put the state on a shelter-in-place order and lockdown of all but essential services. But that’s as of mid-day March 23.

An analysis by Mark Zandi, chief economists at Moody’s, found the Tri-Cities has a little over 29,000 jobs in the high-risk category that are most likely to be affected in the jobs fall-out during the initial effort to contain COVID-19. Most of those jobs -17,805 – are in the Kingsport-Bristol MSA. The share of high-risk jobs in both local MSAs is 15.4% in Kingsport-Bristol and 14.6% in the Johnson City MSA. The full report on this study can be found by CLICKING HERE 


Categories: LABOR MARKET