Ranks of Tri-Cities entrepreneurs increasing

The number of entrepreneurs is increasing in the Tri-Cities. So are their gross receipts.

According to the Census Bureau’s latest count, there were 31,009 nonemployer businesses in the seven-county Tri-Cities region in 2017.  That’s a 1.8% increase from the previous year. It was a pretty good growth number for a period when total area employment increased by 1.5%; the number of private sector jobs was up by 0.3% and nonfarm job growth was 0.4%.

Nonemployer firms don’t get much public notice. The chamber of commerce squad doesn’t show up with a ribbon and the big scissors when a new nonemployer business takes the plunge. And although they’re counted by the business dynamics folks at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Census Bureau and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) their role in monthly labor market reports go unnoticed by the public and in some cases are undercounted by government number crunchers. But that doesn’t diminish their economic significance.

For the record, a nonemployer firm has no employees other than the owner. They must have receipts of $1,000 a year or more that’s subject to federal income taxes. Nonemployer businesses have been around longer than employer businesses. And they were drivers of the gig economy when it was called moonlighting. But for some individuals, it’s a full-time job.

Nonemployer firms cover a wide swath of trades and professions. The actual work varies from lawn maintenance, independent building trade people, cosmetologists, graphic artists, food truck operators, financial advisers, medical technicians, tech-support gurus, computer coders, medical technicians, and even doctors.

The per capita total receipts were $41,797 in the latest count.

The individual in the mining, quarrying, oil, and gas sector had the highest per capita receipts $85,824. Individuals in the wholesale trade and real estate sectors also had per capital receipts in the $80,000 range.

Those involved in utilities had the least per capita receipts – $6,818.

The largest number of nonemployer businesses fall into the Other Services labor sector. Their ranks also had the largest decrease from 2016 – 29 firms. Folks engaged in this labor sector do general automotive repair, electronic and precision equipment repair, commercial and industrial machinery and equipment repair and maintenance, personal and household goods repair and maintenance. They also offer personal care services in barber shops, beauty and nail salons, death care services, dry cleaning and laundry services, pet care. Others work in private households, civic and social organizations, religious organizations and business, professional, labor and political organizations.

Runner up for the largest number of nonemployer firms is construction, followed by administrative and support services.

The sector that saw the most growth was retail trade. It increased by 184. During the same period, it also posted the largest total receipts loss – $3.7 million.

Practitioners in the real estate and rental and leasing sector had the largest total receipts gain – $12.8 million. This sector of nonemployer businesses do real estate rental and leasing, work in the offices of real estate agents and brokers, do property management, real estate appraisals, automotive equipment rentals and leasing, consumer good rentals, commercial and industrial machinery, and equipment rentals and leasing.





Kingsport-Bristol sales tax collections struggle to recover footing; Johnson City collections make moderate increase

May was another lackluster month for Northeast Tennessee sales tax collections.

The three-county Johnson City Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) almost reached the year-to-date collections growth rate for Northeast Tennessee, and its year-over-year collections were better than the state year-over-year rate and on par with the state and most metro areas. But it wasn’t enough to compensate for Kingsport-Bristol MSA’s collections doldrums.

A review of the seasonally adjusted collections data from Middle Tennessee State University and Core Data shows Kingsport-Bristol has only managed to match last year’s market share performance one month so far this year. The four-county MSA’s year-to-date collections are 2% below the total for the first five months of last year.  April and May’s collections were positive when compared to the same months last year, but it hasn’t been enough to recover from a negative first quarter that included a 12% February decline.

Here’s how May’s collections looked in Northeast Tennessee’s four metro areas when compared to April:

Johnson City MSA – up 3.9%

Knoxville MSA – up 3%

Morristown – down 0.5%

Kingsport-Bristol – down 5.5%

Tennessee up 2.8%

Here’s the snapshot compared to May last year:

Johnson City – up 8%

Knoxville – up 6.3%

Morristown – up 6.1%

Kingsport-Bristol – up 1.5%

Tennessee up 8.2%

Collections on the Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Areas (CSA) level were up 11.4% from last year in Chattanooga-Cleveland; up 6.3% in Knoxville-Morristown; and up 4.7% in Johnson City – Kingsport- Bristol. Knoxville-Moriston had an 11.8% market share of statewide collections. Chattanooga-Cleveland’s share was 6.7%, and Johnson City-Kingsport-Bristol had a 4.3% sales of statewide collections. That pattern conforms to other metrics that show that while there’s growth in the Tri-Cities economy, it lags the performance of the surrounding areas.

So far this year the seasonally adjusted collections in the Johnson City MSA are $80.2 million and $84.8 million in the Kingsport-Bristol MSA.

Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the U.S. economic activity, increased moderately in May according to the Commerce De3partment.


Here’s a snapshot of how Kingsport consumers spend their money

The Census Bureau is developing and expanding a data tool that’s intended to help businesspeople or those aspiring to start a business.

Version 2.5 of a suite of service intended to provide selected demographic and economic data from the Census Bureau tailored to specific types of uses in a simple to access and use form is getting there, but not everything is ready from prime time, yet. The Esri Community, where customers, partners, Esri staff, and others in the GIS and geospatial professional community – connect, collaborate, and share experience, have moved the mapping functions forward. But there are holes in the data collection – especially when you get down to the city level. Some of that is because the data hasn’t been linked up yet and there are elements that are not disclosed. For example, a lot of the data about business revenue, workforce, etc. won’t be disclosed on the local level.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not a helpful tool. Here’s an example of just one data run.

If you plug in interest for the restaurant business and select Kingsport, you get an Excel workbook with nine data sheets. One of the sheets that does provide some interesting information is where and how local consumer spend their money.  One example is: local consumers spend an average of $2,456 per household a year eating out compared to $3,939 for food consumed at home.  And off that money spent on food to be consumed at home 34% goes for snacks while fruits and veggies account for 18% of the money spent.



Tri-Cities labor market enters seasonal slump on positive footing

The Tri-Cities labor market entered its seasonal three-month slump with the loss of 300 nonfarm jobs. At the same time, the number of people employed increased by 363 and the unemployment rate increased to 3.4%. That’s a pretty good labor market snapshot when you look at this year’s trend line compared to previous years.

Bureau of Labor Statistics nonadjusted preliminary data shows 205,400 nonfarm jobs in the seven-county region last month. And while that fewer than there were in April the more important data point is there were 1,800 more than May last year. It’s also noteworthy that May was the fourth straight month when there were more jobs than there were the same months in 2008 – the year before the Great Recession hit the local economy. If the jobs market keeps on going like it is 2019 could be the year when it claims recovery from the recession.

So far this year employers have been adding an average of 40 new nonfarm jobs a month. The region finished last year with a 700-job deficit from the pre-recession benchmark.

So far, this employment is trending high and has posted some strong gains. Employment typically ebbs lower during the seasonal slump, but that’s not the case this year. The preliminary numbers show employment has been increasing at the average rate of 1,613 a month so far this year. Last year the employment growth rate average was 132 a month.  May’s total was better than April and 7,287 better than May last year. But that’s where the good news end. Compared to the pre-recession high, May’s employment was down 9,398 people.

Nonfarm jobs recovery has already been firmed up in the Johnson City Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). Its jobs total has been above the pre-recession benchmark every year, which has been enough to balance the jobs growth struggle in the four-county Kingsport-Bristol MSA where the job total was even with May’s pre-recession benchmark but the January through April totals were still in the red-ink column.

Two Johnson City labor sectors – Professional and Business Services and Hospitality – added jobs last month while the Government sector cut 1,000 jobs. The other sectors were unchanged from April totals.

Five sectors in Kingsport-Bristol added jobs last month. Those sectors included: Construction; Trade, Transportation and Utilities; Professional and Business Services; Other Services; and Government. Education and Health Services was the only sector showing a job loss from April.

Here’s how May’s unemployment rates look for the region:

Tri-Cities  Consolidated Statistical Area (CSA) – 3.4%

Knoxville CSA – 2.9%

Chattanooga CSA – 3.3%

Johnson City MSA – 3.5%

Kingsport-Bristol MSA – 3.4%

Morristown MSA – 3.5%

Greeneville Micropolitan Statistical Area – 3.8%

Carter Co. – 3.8%

Greene Co. – 3.8%

Hawkins Co. – 3.6%

Johnson Co. – 3.1%

Sullivan Co. 3.4%

Unicoi Co. 4.5%

Washington Co.  3.2%

Bristol – 3.5%

Johnson City – 3.2%

Kingsport – 3.5%

Tennessee – 3.6%

U.S. – 3.3%

The national U6 unemployment report which includes marginally attached workers and those working part-time for economic reasons was 7.3%, unchanged from April. You have to go back to 2000 to find a month where the U6 was lower than it was in May. The lowest it has been this decade was 6.8% in October 2008.

William County has the lowest unemployment rate in Tennessee in May – 2.2%. Davidson County wasn’t far behind at 2.3%.  Knox County has the lowest rate in the Tri-Cities – 2.7%.

Clay County has the highest May rate – 5.4%.

Nonfarm jobs trend based on 12-month moving average. The red line marks the period when the Great Recession hit the local economy.



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