Flying High since 1998.

Tri-Cities Jobs Report Summer 2015

compiled by Lewis Loflin


Summary: the Tri-Cities labor market continues to contract as it shows a very minor increase in employment. The retail sector continues to grow, which seems separate from the local labor market. It seems that they depend on tourists and outsiders to bring in retail dollars while very little benefit flows to the local work force.

Quoting Ed Barlow before the Sullivan County Chamber of Commerce,

"Seniors create low-wage service jobs. They tend to withdraw from working, and they generally don't create new wealth. A retirement community strategy has long-term negative economic consequences unless there is a diverse economic base of other employees around it..."

In other words import illegal aliens which many businesses are doing. Yet what manufacturing we have left wants cheap labor too but unskilled illegal aliens won't do. See Why illegal Immigration Matters in Bristol

Bristol Compressors CEO Edward Gniewik railed before the Bristol Chamber of Commerce:

"It appears that what is happening here is that the available labor force is diminishing rapidly in the region. It's not just Bristol, but the surrounding area as well. We reach out to about 40 miles for our workforce. Some of our people that work here drive upwards of an hour to get to work. I'm not just looking within the confines of Bristol for our workforce, but I'm reaching into the regional communities to try and find labor...

The money that Bristol Compressors brings into the region ($50 million) is not money that's being pushed around, it's money that's being brought in from our customers who are out of state and out of the country. It's fresh wealth creation coming into this community.

If we open a restaurant in Bristol, that's money that people were going to spend at one restaurant that shifted to another establishment. That's pushing money back and forth, that's not wealth creation."

The figures stated below do not include the pending loss of 300 manufacturing jobs in Washington County Virginia. Construction is probably also inflated due to a lot of government financed retail development in particular in Bristol Virginia-Tennessee.

Once the summer season is over many of these low-end seasonal jobs will disappear. Yet this anemic job market comes on the heels of artificially low interest rates and low energy prices.

Question, what will happen if the government is forced to raise interest rates or energy prices are artificially inflated by the EPA in federal government in the name of green religion?

For many communities such as Bristol the situation is unstable in regards to jobs and income with government being too prominent in the economy. It won't take much of a shock to send the region into another tailspin.

For the last three decades that I have lived in the Tri-Cities area we get hit with one shockwave after another where the job market never fully recovers for the next shock hits us. Now with much of the country facing the same economic reality what kind of future do many of our communities face?

Here in central Appalachia every government economic development scheme and scan has failed and continues to do so. Without a turnaround in the private sector job market there is little to do other than hunker down and try to survive.

For many residents the best path is the one that thousands of others have followed - get an education and marketable job skills that are not welcome here and relocate somewhere else.

East Tennessee State University + First Quarter 2015 + College of Business and Technology

Information taken from Dr. Steb Hipple of ETSU. Steb Hipple is Professor of Economics in the Department of Economics and Finance, East Tennessee State University, and a Research Associate with the ETSU Bureau of Business and Economic Research.


Retail activity increased in all three cities in the first quarter despite severe weather conditions. Compared to 2014, Bristol sales were higher by 4.4% to $250 million, Kingsport sales rose 4.4% to $379 million, and Johnson City sales were up 2.0% to $457 million.

Due to lower energy prices, the overall price level was unchanged on a year-to-year basis. With no inflation, sales volume increases were also 4.4% in Bristol, 4.4% in Kingsport, and 2.0% in Johnson City. In comparison, retail activity rose 2.7% in the metro area, 3.2% in Tennessee, and 2.3% in the United States.

Tri-Cities Labor Market Report

East Tennessee State University + First Quarter 2015 + College of Business and Technology

(This report is based on revised benchmark data. See the note at the end of the report.)


The two sources of labor market data continue to tell different stories about regional labor market performance. According to the Current Population Survey (CPS), regional employment grew only 0.1% in the first quarter, after eleven consecutive quarters of falling employment.

In contrast, the Current Employment Survey (CES) puts job growth at a strong 1.6% over the winter months, and this is on top of three years of generally higher employment levels.

"First, the negative view from the Current Population Survey which is the source of the tables used in this report. In the first quarter, labor market trends remained largely unchanged in the Tri-Cities Consolidated Statistical Area (CSA).

After nearly three years of decline, regional employment managed a meager 0.1% increase to 213,478. Unemployment continued to fall, decreasing 7.1% to 14,589 as discouraged job seekers abandoned the regional labor force. The jobless rate for the metro area was 6.4% (compared to 6.9% in 2014 and 8.1% in 2013). With the labor force shrinking by 0.4%, the falling jobless rate is a sign of labor market weakness. (Four times as many left the labor force as found jobs.)

Second, the positive view from the Current Employment Survey which is the source of employment data by NAICS industry sector."

What is NAICS? According to this is a system that counts production such as industrial output and sales tax collections and doesn't consider LABOR OR JOBS CREATED. It's an accounting gimmick that has severed labor and jobs creation and seems to use output only which is why it's positive even with falling wages and overall employment declines. To quote,

"NAICS uses a production-oriented conceptual framework to group establishments into industries based on the activity in which they are primarily engaged. Establishments using similar raw material inputs, similar capital equipment, and similar labor are classified in the same industry. In other words, establishments that do similar things in similar ways are classified together. NAICS was introduced in 1997 and is periodically revised to reflect changes in the industrial structure of the U.S. and North American economy."

Quoting Dr. Hipple,

"According to the CES data, total payroll employment in the metro area grew by 1.6% during the January to March quarter. Among the twelve regional NAICS industry sectors, employment levels were higher in eight, lower in only one, and unchanged in three (compared to higher in six and lower in six sectors in the fourth quarter). Job growth was led by leisure and hospitality, retail trade, and manufacturing."

Note what we are dealing with: payroll employment went up 0.1% but the labor force shrank another 0.4%. Most of this again was low-end service jobs. If patterns hold as I've seen before the new manufacturing jobs were relocations and rehires, not new jobs.

"Smaller job gains were reported by transport & utilities, education & health services, professional & business services, construction, and information services. A small job loss occurred in wholesale trade. Employment was unchanged in financial services, other services, and government."

Labor market conditions were mixed in the first quarter among the three cities. After three years of declining job levels (as measured by the CPS data), employment grew 0.4% in Johnson City and was essentially unchanged in Bristol and Kingsport. Matching the regional pattern, unemployed workers continued to exit the labor market in each city, contracting the labor force, and reducing the unemployment rates.

The jobless rate was 6.0% in Bristol, 6.4% in Johnson City, and 6.4% in Kingsport. As in the metro area, the lower rates in each city reflect labor market weakness. (Payroll employment data are not available for the cities but would undoubtedly show job growth in line with the CSA metro pattern.)