Southwest Virginia Population decline 2010-2018.

Tri-Cities official poverty rates hit almost 20 percent in 2010

Posted October 12, 2010 by Lewis Loflin

New Census findings show that the official poverty rate in the Tri-Cities region is almost 20%, average and more than 2 percent higher than the state. Economist Dr. Bill Greer of Milligan College says, "No surprise that we've seen higher poverty rates since we've seen particularly high levels of unemployment," The official Tennessee state average is 17.1% and the national average of 14.3%. The average for Virginia is around 7%, but Southwest Virginia mirrors West Virginia and East Tennessee. The Milligan College website is at

Dr Greer claims the high poverty rates in the region are due so few people having college degrees. The national average is 28%, here it's 18% in some counties such as Rick Boucher's 9th District this drops to 10%. Mr. Greer says, "Really this economy has been particularly hard on unskilled and lower skilled jobs. Jobs that have all but evaporated." That has been a fact for years as outsourcing, mass illegal and legal immigration, and Federal tax policies have destroyed the American working class.

Finally Dr. Greer says, "With a high local poverty rate, we're nearing some of the worst rates in the country." Dr. Greer like most of the political class in Tri-Cities either has his head up his rear end or is just ignorant of conditions outside his own affluent college circles. The facts are we have "the worst rates in the country" for years. BHC September 29, 2010

ING Investments noted that the Tri-Cities in 2001 had a poverty rate of almost 24% while "official" government statistics claimed about half of that. In 2008 Both East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia ranked in the bottom 10% in nation on health, income, etc.

What Dr. Greer fails to explain is the region is flooded with college graduates, including those at his over-priced Milligan College. A survey conducted in 2007 for example shows that Tri-Cities colleges graduated over 250 students with teaching degrees alone, but found only about 35 job openings for teachers across the region. Many are stuck with costly student loans that are beginning to return less and less of a paycheck. Many employers in the region refuse to hire college graduates, forcing many into under-employment or fleeing the region.

Many of those that do manage stay often work for the government, education dependant on government money, healthcare (often low-paying) mostly paid for by government, or non-profits sucking-up government grants. A 2005 Broadband report prepared for the pseudo-government agency LENOWISCO found fully one-third of the population in counties of the Virginia 9th District (Rick Boucher) work for the government. In other words the problem continues to be private sector employers paying the lowest pay scales in America.

This subject is avoided at all cost. Business is showered with tens of millions in corporate welfare and free government everything, but there's no demand they deliver what they promised and little to no enforcement on the terms of the subsidies. In one case in Bristol Virginia and Washington County gave a local profitable coal company $16 million in corporate welfare to move their office (that already got subsidies) from Exit 14 (I-81) in Abingdon to around Exit 5 in Bristol Virginia. City officials praised the move for helping to inflate property values in the City, but noted no new jobs would go to local residents already in dire financial trouble. The so-called "new jobs" went to people relocated form Maryland.

That is how economic development works in the region, bypassing those that need the jobs even with college degrees. In fact what business they do bring in are recruited on the promise of the cheapest labor and that local government will turn a blind eye to abuses. This is compounded by anti-business "Green" fanatics working to block many traditional businesses. This was the case with a truck stop on I-81 that would have hired 100 people.

The simple fact is that the many poor communities in the region are trying to outbid each other to retain what industry they do have. This enables business to ring-out costly concessions from local governments. In order to grow a declining tax base local governments are now even outbidding each other for retail business to collect on sales and lodging taxes. One strip mall operator got $10 million in corporate welfare from Washington County Virginia.


What the data below show is the biggest factors for poverty is single parents and lack of education. Over two-thirds did not work at all.

Poor families by family type:

Breakdown of poor married-couple families by work experience
Both worked full-time (2%)
One full-time, other part-time (12%)
One full-time, other didn't work (15%)
Both worked part-time (19%)
One part-time, other didn't work (17%)
Both didn't work (36%)
Married-couple family (40.2%)
Male, no wife present (11.4%)
Female, no husband present (48.4%)

Children below poverty level:
Bristol, Tennessee: 24.7%
State: 22.5%

Poverty rate among high school graduates not in families:
Bristol: 17.9%
Tennessee: 18.6%

Poverty rate among people who did not graduate high school not in families:
Bristol: 47.1%
Tennessee: 45.0%

Breakdown of poor residents in Bristol not in families by work experience
Worked full-time, year-round (1%)
Worked part-time (30%)
Did not work (69%)

Tri-Cities Labor Market Report: Government Jobs Surge, Private sector continues decline.

According to East Tennessee State University economist Steb Hipple the local job improved "dramatically" dropping from 9.7% in 2009 to 8.6%. We gained 5,900 new jobs according to Dr. Hipple. The problem is as follows:

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

As has been the pattern for years (medical for all intensive purposes here is government) is continuing losses of private sector jobs and huge growth in government jobs. There was some private sector gain, but only in the lowest paying sectors while higher paying jobs are still disappearing in droves. See

Tri-Cities Labor Market Report East Tennessee State University - Third Quarter 2014

Employment levels still falling since 2009.

Existing labor market trends dominated the Tri-Cities Consolidated Statistical Area (CSA) in the third quarter. Compared to the same period in 2013, regional employment was lower by 1.7% to 218,244, while unemployment fell 10.3% to 16,664 as discouraged job seekers continued to leave the regional labor force. The summer unemployment rate for the metro area was 7.1% (compared to 7.7% a year earlier). With the labor force shrinking by 2.4%, the falling jobless rate is a sign of labor market weakness.

Among the twelve regional NAICS industry sectors, employment levels were higher in six, lower in six, and unchanged in none (compared to six, four, and two in the second quarter). Job growth was led by construction, professional & business services, other services, and education & health services. Smaller employment gains were reported by transport & utilities, and leisure & hospitality. Major job losses occurred in retail trade, government, and manufacturing. Small employment declines were reported by wholesale trade, information services, and financial services. Overall, the private sector in the metro area saw modest job growth.

During the July to September period, employment was lower in all three cities - falling 2.2% in Kingsport, 2.0% in Johnson City, and 1.2% in Bristol. Matching the regional pattern, large numbers of unemployed workers are exiting the labor market in each city. This has lowered the jobless counts, contracted the labor force, and reduced the unemployment rates. The percent of workers unemployed was 7.0% in Kingsport, 7.1% in Johnson City, and 7.1% in Bristol. As in the metro area, the lower rates in each city reflect labor market weakness.


Return History, Causes of Poverty in Southwest Virginia

Congressman Rick Boucher and President Obama

To quote Lenowisco Broadband Study Warned against Call Centers (PDF file):

"The region has been replacing traditional (better paying) manufacturing jobs with (low paying subsidized) call center jobs, which provide limited advancement and work opportunities. Call centers represent the factory floor of the Knowledge Economy; they are an important part of a diversified economic development strategy, but the region must be careful not to rely too heavily on them, as the work is easily moved to other regions and/or other countries."
No US Job Creation 1999-2009

Lenowisco Broadband Study Warned against Call Centers (PDF file)

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