Local jobs growth slows, wages increasing


TRI-CITIES, Tenn. – Higher interest rates, inflation and renewed recession concerns weren’t enough to stop job creation in Northeast Tennessee in August. And despite monthly labor market volatility, the year-over-year average job gain is sticking to a 4,000 plus increase.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) adjusted payroll report shows 100 more nonfarm jobs last month than there were in July. So far this year, the adjusted total has been stable in the 211,00 jobs range six times.

There were fewer people looking for jobs last month, according to the BLS’s household employment report. That dropped the jobless rate to 3.4% even though the labor force and employment declined.

Northeast Tennessee’s labor force participation rate also made a sharp decline.

Wages in the region’s two metro areas continued improving. So far, the Johnson City metro area has logged monthly double-digit increases from last year and is the highest average private sector wage in the region.


There are 7,310 job openings in NE Tenn. advertised on the Jobs4TN website. That’s slightly higher than last month, but the list of firms with the most open jobs is familiar.

  • Ballad – 817
  • Ingles – 231
  • Food City – 207
  • ETSU – 147
  • Tacala – 89


Fast food and counter workers – $22,052 annual avg. wage.

Retail salespersons – $27,540 annual avg. wage.

Wait staff – $19,880 annual avg. wage.

Customer service representatives – $36,264 annual avg. wage

Cashiers – $22,461 annual avg. wage


Wages in both metro areas have increased since last year. So far, they are increasing faster than inflation.

Johnson City’s August average of $25 an hour is 11.9% higher than last year.

Kingsport-Bristol’s average is $22.69 an hour. It’s 7.2% higher than last year.

The regional average wage is $26.40 an hour.

The state average is $31.60 an hour.



The NE Tenn. labor force participation rate dropped to 52.4% last month. The US rate is 62.9% and it’s 59.2% in Tennessee. Much of the region’s low participation is attributed to an aging demographic and a persistent drug problem.

The Johnson City – Kingsport- Bristol TN VA Combined Statistical Area’s (CSA) median age is 44.7 years and 21.9% of the region’s population is 65 or older. The US median age is 38.1.


Government jobs saw the biggest regional increase (1,600) last month.

Three of the 12 job sectors saw declines from the previous month. There were:

  • Construction, down 100
  • Wholesale trade, down 100
  • Transportation and utilities, down 100


Johnson City metro area

Middle Tennessee State University’s year-over-year employment shows all sectors even with last year or increasing. Top growth sectors are:

  • Leisure and hospitality, up 6%
  • Government – up 4.1%
  • Professional and business services – up 4%

Kingsport-Bristol metro area

Half of the 10 employment sectors are higher than last year. The three best performers are:

  • Construction, up 10.2%
  • Leisure and hospitality – up 9.2%
  • Retail trade – up 3.9%

The two sectors with fewer jobs are:

  • Manufacturing, down 1%
  • Education and health services, down 0.6%

Kingsport-Bristol’s information sector was unchanged from last year. Information is the smallest Tri-Cities sector. It was also the focus of a National Association of Realtors (NAR) housing markets to watch analysis that downgraded Kingsport-Bristol because of its lack of tech sector development. Chattanooga and Knoxville were on the markets to watch list for East Tennessee.


Categories: LABOR MARKET