Employment in all three Tri-Cities declined slightly in this year’s second quarter and continued a trend that began last spring, according to a report released Tuesday from the East Tennessee State University Bureau of Business and Economic Research.
Regional job levels were lower by 1.6 percent to 226,227 positions while there were 18,812 or 2.6 percent fewer workers compared to the same period last year.
The jobless rate for the quarter in the Tri-Cities Consolidated Statistical Area was 7.7 percent, compared to 7.4 percent a year earlier.
Job growth was led by services, professional and business services, construction, leisure and hospitality, and education and health services. Job losses occurred in government, information services, manufacturing, wholesale trade, and finance.
Employment was down 2.6 percent in Johnson City, 1.2 percent in Kingsport, and 0.6 percent in Bristol. Jobless levels were higher in all three cities.
The report also pointed out the national economy continued to add jobs during the second quarter. On a year-to-year basis, national employment grew 1.2 percent to 144.3 million jobs, marking the 11th quarter in a row of overall growth.
“Labor market performance over the past several years clearly shows that the national economy and the regional economy march to the beat of different drummers,” the report’s analysis said. “In 2010 and 2011, the region and the individual cities saw strong job creation while the U.S. economy sputtered along. The situation is now reversed with significant employment gains at the national level, while local employment levels have been dropping over the past year. In the national labor market, the second quarter was the seventh quarter of significant employment growth, where ‘significant’ means that job creation was more than the one percent growth rate of the U.S. population and labor force. However, the employment increase in the April to June period was only 1.2 percent, which means that millions of potential workers remain jobless due to the Great Recession.
“If these 6.3 million discouraged workers are added back into the labor force, the unemployment rate becomes 11 percent, compared to the 7.4 percent official rate. ... The strong job growth in 2010 and 2011 attracted many job seekers which added to the regional unemployment totals. Over the past year, these job seekers have been leaving the area, and it now appears that they are largely gone.”
The economic outlook remains uncertain, the report concluded.
“At best the national economy will continue its sluggish growth and millions of workers will remain unemployed,” the report said. “The ongoing policy confusion in Washington is not helping consumer or business confidence. The sequester continues to reduce government employment — primarily at the state and local levels. And we are approaching the ‘budget cliff’ again which threatens to shut down the federal government altogether.”