Region’s job market cools, still strong


TRI-CITIES, Tenn.  – The regional job market has cooled over the summer. But it’s still strong and defying predictions that higher interest rates would plunge the economy into recession. Local employers have averaged adding 200 new jobs a month on the adjusted jobs scale, which takes the monthly noise out of the average 440 unadjusted total.

Tri-Cities employers gave up 2,300 unadjusted jobs last month. The adjusted number was down 700 jobs. The unemployment rate dipped to 3.7%. That signals that while the jobless rate is softening, the market remains resilient.

The average private sector wages in the Johnson City metro area dropped 1.6% from June. The average number of hours worked accounts for some of the decrease. They were down 0.1% from June.

Despite a 0.4% drop in average hours worked, the average weekly wage in Kingsport-Bristol was up 1.9%.

Increasingly there are signs the local economy and jobs market, while still healthy, is losing momentum. There are 5,200 more jobs than during July last year. That’s earned the region’s metro areas notice for leading the state in adding new jobs. However, most of the jobs that have been added in the low-pay and benefits sectors.

At the same time, the region’s metro areas rank the bottom half of state metro areas or private sector pay. The averages do not include overtime or bouses.


There are 7,086 job openings in the Northeast Tennessee area, according to State Employment and Workforce Development. The five firms with the most advertised positions are:

Ballad Health – 841

Food City – 167

ETSU – 137

Frontier Health, 77

Tacala LLC – 75

Food City leads the region in the number of employees. Ballad is the second highest.


  • Fast food and counter help – 1,200 openings, average annual wage $22,052.
  • Retail salespersons – 1,000 openings, average annual wage $27,540.
  • Waitpersons – 800 openings, annual average wage $19,880.
  • Customer service representatives – 700 openings, annual average wage $36,264.
  • Cashiers – 650 openings, annual average wage $22,461.


The Northeast Tennessee labor force participation rate is 53.1%. It’s 59.9% state wide and 62.9% in the US. Despite the trope that “no one wants to work anymore” retirement and the lack of migration by younger workers to the area are the prime drivers of the low rate. Childcare is also a issue for many women who would like to re-enter the labor market.


July – June regional combined metro areas, unadjusted:


  • Mining and construction
  • Professional and business services
  • Wholesales trade


  • Leisure and hospitality
  • Retail trade
  • Transportation and utilities
  • Manufacturing
  • Government

Johnson City metro area.

Three job sectors are down on the 12-month accounting by Middle Tennessee State University, Tracking Tennessee’s Economy website:

  • Transportation and utilities, down 10%
  • Wholesale trace, down 7.7%
  • Manufacturing, down 2.3%

Sectors with the best 12-month job growth:

  • Leisure and hospitality up 6.1%
  • Education and health services up 4.3%
  • Professional and business services up 4.1%

Total jobs up 2.4% from last year.

Kingsport-Bristol metro area

MSU’s tracker show no sector losses on the 12-month comparison.

Total non-farm jobs up 3.8% from a year ago.




  • Johnson City metro, 551
  • Kingsport Bristol, 561

Categories: LABOR MARKET