COVID still grips slowly healing Tri-Cities labor market

The Tri-Cities labor market continued healing from last spring’s initial coronavirus effect in October, but a new wave of infections is thwarting sustained growth.

Employers added 1,700 jobs in October and September, down from the 2,800 gain in August and 4,400.

The seven-county region’s unemployment rate increased for the first time in four months. It was 6.7% because the labor force and the number of people unemployed increased by the thousands while the number of people employed declined 230 from September. The Labor force was the only major component that made a big increase in October. Employment and non-farm jobs were flat.

Employment has been weak for the past two months following August’s 13,077 increase.

The adjusted job numbers’ growth rate shows gains every month since July. But it hasn’t been strong enough for an early recovery to gain a foothold. The region would need to add 8,500 jobs in the next two months to match the 2019 annual total. Last year’s annual jobs were 1,900 shy of a recovery from the Great Recession, and progress toward that goal has been stopped by COVID-19.

Employers have clawed back over 10,000 of the jobs lost when the labor market crashed in April. Only two sectors have not added jobs from the April level – Government and Information. The non-adjusted jobs total is still down by 9,000 from March’s high point.

The only two job sectors with more jobs in October than when the year began were Construction and Government.

The largest decreases came in the Leisure and Hospitality, Education and Health Services and Trade Transportation and Utilities. Weaker than normal hiring in the retail sector accounts for the performance of the Leisure and Hospitality sector. Retail hiring was weaker despite the ramp up for the holidays due to the expected increase in the numbers of people shopping online instead of in brick and mortar stores.

Unemployment claims for the week ending Nov. 21 in the seven-county NE Tenn. area totaled 2,879, down from 2,981 in September. The total had slowly decreased every week since June 20, when it was 15,088.


Categories: LABOR MARKET

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