Holiday hiring puts a bow on Tri-Cities jobs report

The Tri-Cities labor market shifted into holiday mode in November. Employers added 1,500 jobs according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) non-adjusted payroll report. When the seasonal adjustment is applied the number drops to 400. That’s the same level as last year and double the average Oct.-Nov. job gains from 2008-2021.

Even with November’s hiring, employers were trying to fill 9,189 jobs.

Employment was also up. And the headline unemployment number dropped to 3%. Despite being touted by the media and government officials, the unemployment rate is the least reflective of the labor market of the two monthly BLS reports. It also cannot be used to accurately compare unemployment levels from different years due to the constantly evolving changes in the population’s age makeup. The bottom line is the headline unemployment rate is usually much lower than the actual unemployment rate. A more reliable monitor is the payroll report. It’s a much larger sample covering 30% of all U.S. workers. The household sample for the unemployment rate samples 66,000 individuals nationwide.

Retail stocks up on workers

Retail trade accounted for almost half of the jobs added in November. Of the 700 new jobs, 400 were in the Johnson City metro area, and 300 were in the Kingsport-Bristol metro area. Professional and business services was the second-largest new job producer with 300 new jobs. Other sectors that added jobs were:

  • Construction
  • Manufacturing
  • Transportation and utilities
  • Financial activities
  • Other services

Jobs trend 4-2-5

November’s report adjusted the October jobs totals. The Kingsport-Bristol metro area total was adjusted up 400 jobs. The Johnson City metro gain gained 100.

Although the seasonal adjusted total is lower it’s a better trend indicator. It takes the noise and volatility out of the monthly churn of the unadjusted numbers. That trend picture shows that the labor market has a 4-2-5 record this year. Jobs were added in four months. There was zero gain-loss in two months. And jobs declined in five months.

So far this year, the economy has been adding jobs at an average rate of 164 a month for a 1,800 new jobs gain. There were 2,600 more jobs last month than November last year and 4,700 fewer than the pre-pandemic benchmark.

Job gains traditionally begin declining in December and hit the annual monthly low in January.

Labor force woes

The Tri-Cities and U.S. labor market continues struggling with a labor force that has not returned to match the recovering economy demands. There were 3,131 fewer people in the local labor force in November than last year. Reasons for that shortage include a rapidly aging population and early retirements, workers who have found better jobs, people who have health concerns about returning to the workplace during the region’s high pandemic infection rate. The region’s persistent drug problem and a lack of skilled workers are also factors.

Private sector wages increase

A bright spot is private-sector wages have increased as businesses have been forced to compete for workers. Kingsport-Bristol’s average weekly private-sector wage was up 7.5% at the end of the second quarter. Compared to last year the increase was 6.7% in the Johnson City metro area. Annualized those increases are up 2.9% in Kingsport-Bristol and 4.2% in Johnson City from the 2020 annual wage.

Open jobs, how many, where

The Jobs4TN website says Tri-Cities employers are trying to fill 9,189 jobs. The “help wanted” ads have been in the 9,000 plus range for five months.

Johnson City metro area

There were 3,338 openings when this report was written. Companies topping the list and the number of open jobs include:

Ballad – 427

ETSU – 110

Food City – 74

State of Franklin Healthcare Associates – 59

Kingsport-Bristol metro area

There were 5,851 open positions. Here’s who’s looking and how many workers they want:

Ballad – 623

Eastman – 212

Food City – 206

McDonald’s – 155

Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development charts. Click on the image for larger versions.

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Categories: LABOR MARKET