Tri-Cities job growth rate slows, unemployment claims decline

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It’s not unusual for the Tri-Cities labor market to lose jobs in July. It’s the bottom of the summer slump, and this year’s labor shortage isn’t helping matters. Besides jobs have declined from June in half of the past 14 years. The loss is scary if you look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) unadjusted number – down 1,900. But seasonal adjusting smooths out the volatility for a less white-knuckled, more trend-related read.

The adjusted count shows the local economy lost 200 jobs last month. It dropped the average adjusted monthly growth rate to 314. And the unadjusted unemployment rate dropped to 4.4%. That’s because the number of people who said they were employed increased, and the labor force declined.

Clicking on the graph for a larger version.

Since the first of the year, employers have added 2,500 nonfarm jobs. While the labor market has outperformed the previous year for four months, it’s underperforming 2019 – the pre-pandemic year. At the July average growth rate, it will take the region another 13 months to reach the pre-pandemic annual jobs total. However, job creation typically speeds up with the fall reports

Unemployment claims down

In an effort to nudge workers into the labor market, the governor eliminated additional federal unemployment benefits the first week of July. Since then, the number of NE Tenn. continued claims have declined by 709.

Click on the graph for a larger version.

New claims spiked three weeks after the cutoff. They have ebbed lower ever since and plateaued in the 300-350 range.

Cater and Hawkins counties had the largest increase in new claims in the latest count – the week ending on Aug. 21.

Unemployment rate – 4.4%, or 10%

July’s headline jobless rate was down a full point. It was the fourth month it’s been below 5% this year.  The headline (U3) rate is an estimate based on a survey of 60,000 households nationwide. It asks respondents about their age, education, race and whether they are working, and if not, why not. The responses result in the monthly U3 unemployment rate, the total number of people employed and unemployed.

Click on the graph for a larger version.

The U6 rate is a more precise market indicator. It counts the people without work looking for full-time employment, the marginally attached workers, and those working part-time for economic reasons. Some part-time workers counted as employed in the U3 rate may work as little as an hour a week. Marginally attached workers include those who have gotten discouraged and stopped looking but still want to work.

The U6 rate is not available on the local level. However, if you calculate the difference between the local U3 rate and the U6 rate every month for the last 15 years, average it and apply the average to the Tri-Cities rate, you get an estimate in the 10% range.

Cumulative jobs snapshot so far this year

The monthly churn of jobs added and lost during the first seven months of this year shows most of the sustained progress came in the Leisure and Hospitality sector, followed by Other Services, Manufacturing, Professional, and Business Services and Wholesale Trade.

During the same seven-month period Government is the biggest jobs deficit, followed by Retail Trade, Education and Health Services, Financial Activities, Construction, and Information.

Job gains since pre-pandemic year

Click on the graph for a larger version.

Professional and Business Servicers account for the lion’s share of new jobs when last month’s total is compared to July 2019 – the pre-pandemic benchmark. Those jobs include professional, scientific, and technical services, management of companies, administrative, support, waste management, and remediation services. The top-paying jobs include lawyers, scientific researchers and developers, advertising agents, engineers, drafting services, and computer system designers.

The biggest losses continue to be in the Education and Health Care Services, Leisure and Hospitality, Manufacturing, Government, Construction, Information and Retail Trade.

Top local firms looking for workers

While the worker demand for the East Tennessee Labor Market is ranked “high” by the state’s Jobs4TN website, it was graded as “medium” for the two Tri-Cities metro areas.

The late August count for the three-county Johnson City and two of the four counties in Kingsport-Bristol is 9,240 listings.

There are 3,494 open jobs in the Johnson City metro area: Here are the top five firms with open jobs, according to Jobs4TN.com

Ballad Health – 592

Sodexo, Inc. – 139

Food City/K-VAT-T Food Services  – 126

Food City – 103

ETSU – 88

There are 5,748 open jobs in the Kingsport-Bristol metro area. Here are the top five employers and how many open jobs they have:

Ballad Health – 729

McDonald’s – 227

Food City – K-VA-T Food Stores – 226

Eastman Chemical – 220

Food City – 219

Private sector wages

The average private-sector weekly salary for the Johnson City metro area was $615.55 last month, down from $616.32 in June. It was $642.69 in July last year. The average workweek was 32.5 hours, up from 30 in June but down from 33.3 July last year.

Kingsport-Bristol private-sector workers averaged $723.46 a week last month, up from $712.49 in June and $682.66 last year. The average workweek was 36.3 hours, up from 35.5 in June and 34.6 in July last year.

Statewide, July’s average was $935.67, up from $933.66 in June and $874.72 in July last year. The avg. workweek was 45.6 hours, down from 45.8 in June and up from 35.2 July last year.

The weekly private sector counts do not include overtime or bonuses.

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