Tri-Cities labor market in slow recovery mode

The Tri-Cities economy continued its slow recovery of jobs lost during the COVID-19 crash. September’s seasonally adjusted total from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) payroll survey shows a loss of 700 jobs from August. The nonadjusted total shows a gain of 1,500 jobs.

The number of people employed increased by 26, and the unemployment rate dropped to 5.3%, according to the BLS’s second monthly labor market survey – the household report.

The unemployment rate has declined every month since April’s 13.5% high.

There were 11,447 claims for unemployment on Oct. 22 in Carter, Greene, Hawkins, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi, and Washington counties. September’s BLS count of workers looking for jobs was 11,828. That number is used to calculate the monthly official – U3 – unemployment rate.

The distribution of unemployment claims statewide by labor sector can be found at Tracking Tennessee’s Economy

Continued unemployment claims as a share of local counties labor forces were:

  • Carter – 1.6%
  • Greene – 2.7%
  • Hawkins – 1.9%
  • Johnson – 1.1%
  • Sullivan – 2%%
  • Unicoi – 2.2%
  • Washington – 1.7%


Although the steady decline of the local unemployment rate unemployment is seen by some as a sign of an economy moving from the COVID-19 job losses to recovery, it also dramatically undercounts joblessness. Here’s a link to a WJHL deep dive into the numbers.  Unemployment numbers don’t tell full story of jobs decline

That’s because the BLS calculates U-3 by counting only out-of-work people who have been looking for jobs for the past four weeks.

There are several other unemployment rates counts available – but not on the local level. The U-6 rate is considered by some as the most accurate labor market metric. It counts jobless people seeking full-time employment, those who are “marginally attached workers and those working part-time for economic reasons.” Some workers counted as employed in the U-3 calculations 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.

While the U-6 rate is not calculated on the local level since 2008, the median difference between the local U-3 rate and the national U-6 rate is 5.5%.

The September national U-6 rate was 12.8%.


The payroll report is a sample survey of private and government employers to estimate the number of nonfarm jobs and worker wages. The sample covers 30% of U.S. workers. The rest is an estimate.

The household survey goes to 60,000 households across the nation – about 0.1% of the total. It covers age, education, race, and the number of people who are employed and unemployed to estimate the labor market for Consolidated Statistical Areas (CSA), Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA), Micropolitan Statistical Areas, counties and cities with 25,000 population or more.


In five months, the local labor market has recovered almost half of the 18,600 jobs lost when the market crashed in April. The local recovery rate is a little behind what is being reported for the national jobs recovery.

The Leisure and Hospitality sector recovered 4,700 of the lost jobs followed by the Trade and Transportation and Other Services sectors at 1,200 jobs each. The three accounted for the recovery of 91% of the jobs lost in April.

When compared to September last year, there are 11,100 fewer nonfarm jobs according to the BLS nonadjusted count and 11,000 fewer when the numbers are seasonally adjusted.

There were 12,549 fewer people employed in September compared to last year, 8,762 fewer people in the local labor force, and 3,897 more workers listed as looking for jobs during the past four weeks.

The local labor market was a few hundred short of reaching the pre-Great Recession level when COVID-19 struck.


Categories: LABOR MARKET

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