Kingsport, Twin Cities struggle for employment recovery

The Tri-Cities jobs market tiptoed over the recovery line in April; however, employment in Kingsport and the Twin Cities is lagging.

All three of the region’s major cities are seeing more robust economic conditions, but Kingsport and the Twin Cities continue struggling with their employment and labor force levels.

May’s local labor market reports won’t be available for a couple of weeks. April’s seasonally adjusted payroll report showed the region had 400 more non-farm jobs than before the pandemic. The unadjusted total is up 1,100 jobs. CLICK HERE for that report.

It’s an example of a K-shaped recovery. Most of the jobs in the recovery are clustered at the top end of the pay scale. Sectors hit hardest during the pandemic – education and health services, leisure and hospitality, and food services- are still struggling.

The job growth has been unevenly distributed between the Kingsport-Bristol and Johnson City metro areas; however, Johnson City’s stronger growth has so far been enough to balance Kingsport-Bristol’s slow recovery.

Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) payroll report does not list jobs in counties or cities. But the household survey does have those numbers.

This account counts Bristol TN and Bristol VA as the Twin Cities.


There are 602 more people employed than before the pandemic benchmark. The city’s labor force has increased by 588 people.


There are 180 fewer people employed than before the pandemic. The labor force is down by 217 people.


There were 419 fewer city residents employed than before the pandemic. The labor force was down by 458 people.

Employment in the BLS household survey is based on where the person lives and not where the job is located. For example, employment for a person who lives in Kingsport and works at the Hard Rock Casino in Bristol counts for Kingsport.

The household report is also used for the headline U3 monthly unemployment percentage.

Johnson City’s current unemployment rate is 2.8%.

The rate for the Twin Cities is 3.1%.

Kingsport’s rate is 3.2%.


The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development reports that new unemployment claims increased in East Tennessee for the week ending May 28.

Every county except Carter saw more new claims filed.

The report listed 539 continued unemployment claims and 181 new claims.

The biggest increase in new claims was in Sullivan and Greene counties.

Categories: LABOR MARKET