May’s jobs market robust, but showing signs of softening

May’s top job providers. Click on any chart for a larger version.


TRI-CITIES, Tenn. – The local labor market remains robust in May, but seasonally adjusted performance is beginning to show weakening. May’s employment also declined at the same time the labor force saw a surge driving the jobless rate to 3%.

May’s adjusted jobs total is 210,700 in the seven county Johnson City – Kingsport – Bristol TN VA combined statistical area (CSA). The Bureau of Labor Statistics and Census labor market reports don’t include Greene and Johnson counties, which are part of the regional market, but not the federal districts.

The unadjusted payroll report shows a gain of 300 jobs from April. Compared to May last year, there are 5,400 more jobs. The monthly new jobs growth rate dovetails with the adjusted report. It shows an average loss of 100 jobs a month from the first of the year.

Private sector wages continue to outperform the inflation rate on a year-over-year comparison, but May’s wage growth was flat from the previous month and below the inflation rate.

Sectors that added jobs in May include:

  • Construction
  • Financial activities
  • Education and Health Services
  • Leisure and Hospitality

Sectors that lost jobs in the monthly market churn were:

  • Manufacturing
  • Wholesale trade
  • Professional and Business Services
  • Although the government lost jobs from the previous month, it was the top job provider in the region in May

More jobs and a labor force surge didn’t reduce the region’s labor shortage and employers continue to complain about their inability to find workers – especially skilled workers. According to the Jobs4TN website, Northeast Tennessee employers are advertising 8,395 job openings. The firms with the most opening are:

  • Ballad – 932
  • Ingles – 240
  • Food City – 240
  • ETSU – 142
  • Tacala – 75

According to the state Labor Department, the average weekly wage for jobs currently being advertised in NE Tenn. is $1,027.

The most demand, and fastest growing sectors, are:

  • Food preparation, including fast food. Average wage was not reported
  • Retail – $23,860 avg. wage
  • Cashiers – $21,919 avg. wage
  • Servers – $29,934

The average hourly wage in Northeast Tenn in May was $25.68. The statewide average is $32.38.

A top competitor for young people completing college or a trade school tract is Knoxville, where the average weekly wage is $354 higher than it is in Kingsport-Bristol and $348 a week higher than the Johnson City metro area. The cost of livings difference between Knoxville and the two local metro areas for a renter with no children is 6.8%, according to the Best Places database.


Categories: LABOR MARKET