Tri-Cities Labor Market Report September 2011

by Lewis Loflin

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.

It's odd because they claim retail sales are way up. Well really not so odd because most of the gains seldom result in better wages for working people and flows to the top elite. There has been no real private sector job gains when we factor in under-employment caused by the regions depressed pay scales, a chronic problem here which Dr. Hipple told me they never factor into the figures. We are nowhere close to recovery in terms of real private sector jobs that pay a living wage. In fact it's likely to get even worse.

The rest I'll let Dr. Hipple speak for himself:

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.