Tri-Cities Labor Market Report 2011 & 2016

by Lewis Loflin

Update: compare the 2011 figures with the 2016 figures.

To summarize the report from ETSU economist Dr. Steb Hipple most job growth was led by government and largely government funded sectors such as healthcare and education. The main private sector job growth again was poverty wage and seasonal industries such as leisure & hospitality. Most other sectors had little gain and again big declines in manufacturing and oddly retail trade. In 2016 declines occurred in manufacturing, information services, transport & utilities, and wholesale trade - the better paying jobs.

It's odd because they claim retail sales are way up then and now. So I present both draw your own conclusions.

Tri-Cities Labor Market Report

East Tennessee State University + Fourth Quarter 2016 + College of Business and Technology


Labor market conditions continued to improve in the Tri-Cities metro area over the fall months. Employment data from both the Current Population Survey (CPS) and the Current Employment Survey (CES) show job gains. In the household-based Current Population Survey, metro employment levels increased 2.1% to 217,759. Unemployment fell 2.3% to 11,962, reducing the jobless rate to 5.2% (compared to 5.4% in 2015 and 6.0% in 2014). The overall labor force expanded by 1.8% to 229,720. The establishment-based Current Employment Survey shows payroll employment rising to 204,167, or 0.3% above 2015 levels.

Among the twelve regional industry sectors, the CES data show employment levels higher in six, lower in four, and unchanged in two sectors (compared to higher in seven, lower in three, and unchanged in two during the third quarter). Job growth was led by professional & business services, retail trade, and education & health. Smaller job gains were reported by leisure & hospitality, government, and other services. Job declines occurred in manufacturing, information services, transport & utilities, and wholesale trade. Employment was unchanged in construction, and financial services.


All three cities reported higher employment levels in the fourth quarter, according to the household CPS data. During the autumn months, employment grew 3.4% in Johnson City, 2.1% in Kingsport, and 0.7% in Bristol. On a year-to-year basis, unemployment fell 3.7% in Johnson City and 2.6% in Kingsport. Surprisingly, Bristol had a jobless increase of 3.8%. The unemployment rate was 5.1% in Bristol, 5.2% in Johnson City, and 5.3% in Kingsport (compared to the regional jobless rate of 5.2%).

There were significant changes in the retail picture over the fall months. Dollar sales increased 2.4% in Johnson City to $628 million and 2.2% in Bristol to $343 million. Retail activity was down again in Kingsport where sales declined 1.7% to $444 million. Adjusted for inflation, real sales were up 0.6% in Johnson City and 0.4% in Bristol, while falling 1.7% in Kingsport. The impressive retail growth in Bristol linked to new retail outlets may be over for the present. And there has been a shift in retail market share away from Kingsport merchants to the new Bristol shopping centers just down the road. In comparison, retail volume rose 1.4% in the metro area, 1.8% in Tennessee, and 2.1% in the nation.


Labor market conditions improved significantly in the metro area during the second quarter. Employment increased by an impressive 2.9% to 232,417, a gain of over 6,500 jobs compared to the same period in 2010. The high level of job creation caused many discouraged workers to re-enter the labor force which increased unemployment levels slightly by 0.4% to 21,766. Over the April to June period, the unemployment rate for the Tri-Cities area was 8.6%, compared to 8.8% a year ago. This marks the fourth quarter in a row of labor market recovery in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.

Among the twelve local NAICS industry sectors, employment levels were higher in nine sectors, lower in two, and unchanged in one (compared to five, five, and two in the first quarter). Job growth was led by government, education & health services, leisure & hospitality, and wholesale trade. Smaller employment gains were reported by professional & business services, construction, transport & utilities, finance, and other services. Job losses were restricted to manufacturing and retail trade. Employment was unchanged in information services...

Ordinarily, large employment gains in the region coming out of a recession would be a cause for celebration...The bad news is that we are still in the pit of the 2008-09 recession. The recession officially ended in June 2009, but the following two-year "recovery" phase has been very feeble. Employment and production today are still well below the pre-recession levels of 2006 and 2007.

Any business slowdown or new recession will begin at these depressed levels of production and employment...The probability of a strong economic recovery (falling unemployment) is zero. The odds of continuing weak growth (stable unemployment) are now about 40%. The probability of no growth (rising unemployment) is 50%. The odds of a second recession (significantly higher unemployment) are small at 10%, but these odds were previously zero.


The following are based on a classical deist viewpoint - we are here to learn not just mindless attacks.