Report shows Tri-Cities jobs recovery running out of gas

November’s Tri-Cities jobs report was a mash of mixed signals, but the trend points to a stalling economy.

The housing market continues a strong V-shaped recovery while the jobs recovery has all but stalled in a slow-growth mode.

The exception is real estate. It is continuing a strong V-shaped recovery while the jobs market ran out of gas. The overall economy had assumed a K-shaped recovery where different parts of the economy recover at different rates, times, or magnitudes. (Chart jobs growth v. home sales growth rates)

Employers added 300 jobs on the nonadjusted side of last month’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) payroll report’s ledger. When seasonally adjusted, the total was a loss of 700 jobs from October marking weaker-than-normal pre-holiday hiring.

The unemployment rate dropped to 5% from 6.7% on a labor force surge. The unemployment rate in 54 of Tennessee’s 95 counties is 5% or more, while 41 counties have rates less than 5%.

It was an ugly report which followed in the footsteps of the U.S. report. The Tri-Cities is a little more than 6,000 jobs in the hole from the beginning of the year and down almost 11,000 from November last year. You have to go back 25 years to November 1995 to find a lower job total.

Last month’s nonadjusted job gains were driven by growth in the Trade and Transportation, Education and Health Services, Other Services, and Government sectors.

Job losses in the Construction, Manufacturing, Professional and Business Services, and Leisure and Hospitality sectors knocked down those gains to the preliminary nonadjusted 300 job gain. That number will be adjusted when next month’s report is released. November’s adjustment subtracted 100 jobs from the October preliminary report.

November was the fourth straight month new job generation has slowed in the Tri-Cities.

November was the fourth straight month the jobs growth rate has declined at the same time that the local Coronavirus numbers increased and uncertainty over the fate of renewed stimulus efforts mired down in political maneuvering and finger-pointing.

A slowing job growth rate doesn’t mean recovery from April when the pandemic crashed the labor market has stopped. The economy has clawed back almost 10,000 of the 19,000 jobs lost in April. But the region is a long way from recovery from this recession. It was close to recovery from the Great Recession with Coronavirus hit. Employers would have to add a little more than 8,000 jobs in December to get the seven-county region to the 2019 annual jobs total.

And, as in every recovery, there are winners and losers. An encouraging number of business starts, expansions, and increasing examples of a surge in entrepreneurs continue to crop up, as do the number of business closures and job losses. A net accounting for jobs will be available during Q1 next year while the net gain-loss for businesses won’t be available until later next year.

While unemployment and job losses have the public’s attention, there are quite a few area jobs that were open last month.

Here are some highlights of the information available on the Jobs4TN web site. Each group is ranked from a listing of the top 10 by the number of job openings in November. There are 11 entries in occupations because there was demand in only one of the region’s metro areas.

TOP OCCUPATIONS

  • Registered nurses – 275
  • Retail salespersons – 216
  • First-line supervisors for food prep and serving workers – 205
  • Cashiers – 182
  • Workers, including fast food – 155
  • Physicians, surgeons, all others – 141
  • Customer service representatives – 121
  • Firstline supervisors for retail sales workers – 101
  • Personal care aids – 83, Johnson City metro only
  • Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers – 43 – Kingsport-Bristol only
  • Engineers – 43, Kingsport-Bristol only.

TOP INDUSTRIES

  • Accommodation and food services – 936
  • Retail trade – 920
  • Health care and social assistance – 794
  • Admin, support, waste management, and remediation – 256
  • Education services – 209
  • Professional, scientific, technical services – 201
  • Manufacturing – 192, highest demand in Johnson City metro area
  • Transportation and warehousing – 117
  • Public administration – 120
  • Wholesale trade 104

TOP 3 EMPLOYERS BY JOB OPENINGS

JOHNSON CITY MSA

  • ETSU – 83
  • Aerojet Rocketdyne, Inc. – 71
  • Amedisys Holdings, LLC – 10

KINGSPORT-BRISTOL MSA

  • Eastman Chemical – 59
  • Staffmark Investments – LLC – 8
  • Jackson Hewitt Tax Service – 5

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