Job growth wasn’t in the region’s employment picture during this year’s first quarter, according to a Tri-Cities Labor Market Report released Tuesday.
“The economic outlook has become more uncertain — still dominated by the political paralysis in the nation’s capital,” said an analysis of the report compiled by the East Tennessee State University Bureau of Business and Economic Research. “The (Tri-Cities) region has seen four quarters of job losses which have wiped out part of the strong job gains from 2010 and 2011. The slowdown in national employment growth means that the Tri-Cities area cannot look for a (jobs) boost any time soon from this direction.”
Compared to last year’s first quarter, the largest year-to-year job loss was reported by Johnson City, where employment was down by 1.9 percent, followed by a 0.8 percent decline in Kingsport and a 0.3 percent decline in Bristol.
The resulting January-to-March unemployment rate was 7.2 percent in Bristol, 7.4 percent in Johnson City and 7.4 percent in Kingsport.
Despite the lower employment figures, jobless levels continued to decline as some workers became discouraged and dropped out of the regional job market altogether, while others left the region seeking work in other places where employment is growing, the report pointed out.
Among 12 regional industry sectors, employment levels were higher in six, lower in four and unchanged in two. Job growth was led by education and health services, professional and business services, leisure and hospitality and other services. Smaller gains were reported by retail trade and transportation and utilities.
The report recorded job losses in construction, government, information services and finance. Employment was unchanged in manufacturing and wholesale trade.
During the first quarter, the national economy grew 1.1 percent to 142.2 million jobs, marking the 10th consecutive quarter of overall growth.
America’s overall winter unemployment rate was 8.1 percent, compared to 8.6 percent in 2012 and 9.5percent in 2011. Nationally, job losses were limited to the government sector as the federal sequester took hold.
“These reduced jobless rates, however, may give a false impression of the health of the labor markets,” the report added. “In the face of fewer jobs, the unemployment level can be reduced by discouraged workers leaving the labor force or leaving the area to look for work elsewhere. With the national economy reviving while the area economy weakens, it will create a strong pressure on job seekers to try their luck in areas where employment is increasing.”