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Tri-Cities loses 8,303 jobs in first quarter

Sharon Hayes • May 14, 2009 at 12:00 AM

The Tri-Cities lost more than 8,000 jobs in the first quarter of the year, pushing the region’s unemployment rate up to more than 8.5 percent.

According to the latest labor market report issued Thursday by East Tennessee State University, the region lost a total of 8,303 jobs in the first quarter vs. the same period a year ago.

Kingsport lost 1,473 jobs in the period, and its unemployment rate rose from 4.92 percent a year ago to 8.01 percent this year.

Johnson City reported a loss of 1,970 jobs in the first quarter, and its unemployment rate rose from 5.36 percent last year to 8.34 percent this year.

And Bristol lost 937 jobs in the first quarter, while its unemployment rate rose from 4.77 percent last year to 8.48 percent this year.

“As grim as this labor market situation has become, it is not unexpected. The economy is entrapped in the worst recession since the 1981-82 downturn,” said ETSU economist Steb Hipple.

Manufacturing and construction drove job losses in the region during the quarter, while smaller losses were reported in wholesale trade, other services, information, finance, leisure and hospitality, and transportation and utilities.

Education and health, professional and business services, government and retail trade actually posted job gains during the first quarter.

Hipple said the recession continued to intensify across the nation during the first three months of the year.

“The recession is now 17 months old and counting, while a normal recession typically lasts only nine or 10 months,” he said.

He predicted conditions will worsen before they get better.

“So the bad news is that we are facing more bad news,” Hipple said. “The good news is that the prospect of another Great Depression is off the table, and the end of the downturn may be near.”

Hipple said the economy is showing signs of promise. While job losses continue to grow, monthly job losses are getting smaller, he said, noting “this is the first step to an end of the decline in employment.”

In addition, retailing activity is showing signs of recovery, inflation remains low, and the economies of the nation’s major trading partners in East Asia have begun to expand.

Hipple said the regional business conditions are linked to the national business cycle, so good news on the national scene will lead to brighter news on the local level.

Hipple details the job market and provides analysis on the national economy in the labor report, available at http://faculty.etsu.edu/hipples.

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