Inflation drives new job seekers into labor market

Rick Wagner • Aug 14, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Looking for work?

So are more than 13,000 others in the Tri-Cities, and a local economist said nearly half of those are new entrants driven to seek work because of inflation.

It’s not a recession, he said, but may be what’s called a “growth recession.”

And unfortunately, Kingsport has the highest unemployment rate in the region, which includes Bristol, Tenn.-Va., and Johnson City.

The Tri-Cities Labor Market Report released Thursday afternoon says that the jobless rate jumped to 5.5 percent for the second quarter of 2008, compared to 4.1 percent a year ago.

“The number of unemployed workers unexpectedly surged by 36.3 percent to 13,528, a jump of 5,600 on a year-to-year basis,” says the report, written by Steb Hipple of the East Tennessee State University Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

In contrast, employment fell by a “relatively modest” 0.2 percent to 230,229, a loss of 518 jobs compared to the same period in 2007.

The number of jobs fell slightly in each city while the number of job seekers unexpectedly jumped.

Employment declined 0.1 percent in Bristol, 0.3 percent in Johnson City and 0.4 percent in Kingsport.

Unemployment levels increased by 26 percent in Bristol, 40 percent in Johnson City and 38 percent in Kingsport.

The jobless rate was 5.3 percent in Bristol, 5.7 percent in Johnson City and 5.4 percent in Kingsport.

A similar trend emerged nationally, with the number of workers holding jobs up 0.1 percent. The number of jobless increased 19.6 percent to 8.1 million during the quarter.

“This shows slow growth in the national economy and a slight decline in the region. This is not a recession,” Hipple wrote in the analysis section of the report.

However, he placed the blame squarely on inflation.

“The jump in unemployment is not due to job losses, but rather to an unexpected surge in new job seekers entering into the job market,” Hipple wrote in the analysis section of the report.

“The answer is very simple — inflation!” Hipple wrote. “The higher cost of living has decimated family living standards. The only recourse is to put additional family members to work, so in the second quarter millions of Americans entered the labor market trying to find work to augment falling household incomes.”

He said whether a recession is looming — via the traditional definition of two quarters of decline in the real gross national product — is unknown.

“Real GDP has modestly increased in the first and second quarters. Most analysts expect this slow growth to continue in the rest of 2008, but a few are still anticipating a recession.

He wrote that slow growth in the economy translates into flat employment levels and rising unemployment and jobless rates, something called a “growth recession.”

With a “wobbly” national economy, consumer spending is weak and investment remains in decline. With the national labor market expected to see further decline, Stebble wrote that in the region the labor market “will continue to follow those national trends with an adverse impact on local business activity.”

Job growth occurred in education and health, construction, information services and finance. Employment fell in government, professional and business services, durable manufacturing, nondurable manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade, transport and utilities and leisure and hospitality. Job levels were stable in mining and other services.

For more information, go to Hipple’s Web site at http://faculty.etsu.edu/hipples.

Recommended for You

    Kingsport Times News Videos