"We’ve had two years of solid growth. And not only was the second quarter strong — it was stronger than the first," said Steb Hipple, economist at East Tennessee State University.
According to the latest labor market report, the region gained 6,363 jobs in the second quarter vs. the same period a year ago. The region’s unemployment rate fell a whopping 14.16 percent to 4.07 percent in the quarter.
Job gains were led by construction, government, leisure and hospitality, finance, retail trade, information services, education and health, wholesale trade, and transport and utilities.
Employment losses were felt in professional and business services, durable and nondurable manufacturing, and other services. Job levels in the mining sector remained flat in the quarter.
Hipple said that all three urban centers in the Tri-Cities experienced record-setting labor market performance in the second quarter. Kingsport added 1,238 jobs in the period while its unemployment rate fell nearly 20 percent to 3.88 percent. Johnson City gained 1,795 jobs in the quarter, and its unemployment rate declined 14.54 percent to 4.06 percent. Bristol added 608 jobs in the period, while its unemployment rate fell 9.79 percent to 4.21 percent.
Hipple said the majority of the job gains are permanent in the region.
"The next time the economy slows, we’ll lose some of this. But I think we’ve seen a permanent upward ratchet in the number of people working in the area," Hipple said. "This solid gain is not going to go away — and these new jobs are creating new paychecks which show up in higher retail sales and more tax revenues."
He said the national labor market continues to grow, as job levels increased for the 20th quarter in a row during the second three months of the year.