Local job creation robust, growth rate slows


TRI-CITIES, Tenn. – Some analysts say the labor market is shifting toward fewer opening and conditions that favor employers. While the local job creation rate is slowing, those conditions are not yet showing up in NE TN and SW VA.

Local employers added 400 seasonally adjusted jobs in September. That dropped the year-over-year gain to 3,000 – the lowest level this year. So far this year, the economy has added an average of 300 seasonally adjusted job a month.

Almost 2,000 people joined the labor force last month dropping the region’s headline unemployment rate increased to 3.7%.

Northeast Tennessee’s labor force participation rate increased by 0.3%. It has been flat in the 5% to 54% range for a year and down from where it was two years ago. The rate has gained more attention because of the difference between the local jobs market compared to the state and national averages.

Wages in the region’s two metro areas continued improving.


There are 7,708 job openings in NE Tenn. advertised on the Jobs4TN website and 5,978 candidates. That’s slightly higher than last month, but the list of firms with the most open jobs is familiar.

  • Ballad – 872
  • Ingles – 223
  • Food City – 198
  • ETSU – 159
  • Eastman Chemical Co. – 102


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


Private sector wages in both metro areas are outperforming last year, and the monthly increases are higher than the inflation rate. Wages and the growth rate in the Johnson City metro area are higher than they are in Kingsport-Bristol.

Average wages in both metro areas are lower than the regional average and state averages.

Johnson City’s August average of $25.80 an hour is 17% higher than was in Sept. last year.

Kingsport-Bristol’s average is $22.75 an hour. It’s 8% higher than last year.

The regional average wage is $31.60 an hour.

The state average is $26.40 an hour.


The NE Tenn. labor force participation rate dropped to 52.8%, up from 52.2% in August.

The US rate is 62.7% and it’s 59.4% in Tennessee.

Much of the region’s low participation is attributed to an aging demographic and a persistent drug problem.


Government jobs saw September’s biggest regional increase (2,300 jobs).

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

  • Construction, down 100
  • Leisure and hospitality, down 500
  • Manufacturing, down 100


Johnson City metro area

Middle Tennessee State University’s year-over-year employment shows growth in seven sectors. Top growth sectors are:

  • Other services, up 7.4%
  • Construction – up 3.6%
  • Professional and business services – up 4%

The declining sectors are:

  • Transportation and utilities, down 10%
  • Wholesale trade – down 4%

Kingsport-Bristol metro area

All but one sectors are higher or even with last year. The three best performers are:

  • Professional and business services, up 3.6%
  • Financial activities – up 2.6%
  • Retail trade – up 2.6%

The single declining sector was:

  • Manufacturing – down 1.9%

Categories: LABOR MARKET