The Tri-Cities labor market had its best jobs-gain month of the year in May. It added 700 non-farm jobs. At the same time, the unemployment rate made a slight increase to 3.4%. In general terms, 3% or less is considered full employment. And a summer rate increase is not uncommon.
The 700 new jobs are a non-adjusted number. When its seasonally adjusted, gains were unchanged from April when the region moved past the pre-pandemic jobs recovery mark.
The number of new unemployment claims also decreased for the second week in the state’s mid-June weekly report.
A little more than 10,000 open jobs are listed on the Jobs4TN database. That number hasn’t moved much for the past three months, which has sparked new conversations about the Sullivan Co. labor force participation rate.
Labor force participation rates vary by county, but the overall rate for the Tri-Cities hovers around 54%. The Tennessee rate is 61.3%, and the U.S. rate is 62%. Sullivan’s most current rate is 53.7%. Although Sullivan’s labor force has grown since last year, it’s down by 1,348 people from the pre-pandemic benchmark.
Some typical reason cited for the low local rate is that “people don’t want to work, and they’re getting too many government benefits.” The less-discussed reasons include the local population is older and sicker than the rest of the state. Many workers have aged out of the labor force. Some potential workers are disqualified because they can’t pass a drug test since the area’s drug problem remains a heavy burden. More than half of the people not in the labor force are women who need scarce and expensive childcare to work. And almost half of the open jobs are at the bottom of the pay and benefits ladder. The region’s labor force participation rate has and continues to be one of the less-discussed but most pressing challenges.
That has imposed a strain on local employers scrambling to meet increasing consumer demand. However, that demand is beginning to soften with higher mortgage and interest rates, rising inflation pressures, and recession fears.
According to Jobs4TN, there are 3,891 open jobs in the Johnson City metro area. Firms with the most open jobs include:
Ballad – 394
ETSU – 145
Ingles – 113
Food City – 79
BWX Technologies – 62
Jobs4TN lists 6,263 open jobs in Kingsport-Bristol. Firms with the most job openings include:
Ballad – 549
Eastman – 261
Food City – 192
McDonalds – 167
TruGreen – 108
Categories: CORE DATA