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Unemployment still keeps climbing for Tri-Cities in 2010

by Lewis Loflin

Tri-Cities employers continue to shed jobs in high numbers. The latest job numbers are out, and it's not good news for our region. The Tri-Cities region lost more than 10,000 jobs in the final three months of last year compared to the fourth quarter of the year before. The labor market report from ETSU's Bureau of Business and Economic showed unemployment presently stands at 9.3 percent in our region, which is up more than three percent in a year. (BHC 2-17-2010)

Official area unemployment is still slightly less than the national rate of 9.5 percent. But this excludes those whose unemployment has run out and those under-employed. The real number is closer to 20%, pretty much in line with the real poverty rate. Ref. February 17, 2010 BHC

The Tri-Cities unemployment rate shot up by 51.26 percent over the past year, reflecting more than 10,300 people who lost their jobs. The region's overall unemployment rate went from 6.06 percent to 9.27 percent during that period, when comparing the fourth-quarter rates for 2008 and 2009, according to the Tri-Cities Labor Market Report released Wednesday by East Tennessee State University economist Steb Hipple.

To quote Dr. Hipple's report:

The intensity of the Great Recession did not abate in the Tri-Cities region during the fourth quarter. Area employment fell 4.5% to 221,716 -- a loss of over 10,300 jobs compared to the same period in 2008. Unemployment increased by 51% to 22,657 on a year-to-year basis - a jump of 7,700 in the jobless numbers.

The difference in job losses and unemployment represents over 2500 discouraged workers who have given up looking for work and have dropped out of the labor force. The unemployment rate for the Tri-Cities area is now 9.3%, compared to only 6.1% a year ago. Three of the seven metro counties saw double-digit unemployment rates over the fall months.

Bristol's unemployment rate went from 5.90 percent to 9.19 percent during 2009, according to the report. Johnson City's went from 6.15 percent to 9.1 percent, and Kingsport's went from 5.71 percent to 9.22 percent.

But what is perhaps more distressing than the region's skyrocketing unemployment rates, Hipple said, is that the size of the region's labor force - the number of people who have a job or are actively seeking a job - shrunk by 1.09 percent in that year. The real unemployment rate when we factor in that and under-employment is about 20%. Ref. BHC February 19, 2010

To quote his third quarter retail report in a region so dependent on sales taxes:

The recession continued to grip retail activity in the three cities during the third quarter. On a year-to-year basis, dollar sales fell 4.2% in Bristol, 4.9% in Johnson City, and 8.3% in Kingsport. Adjusted for inflation, real sales decreased 2.6% in Bristol, 3.3% in Johnson City, and 6.8% in Kingsport.

Posted February 26, 2010.