Johnson City

Economist says local economy strong

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - The economy in the Tri-Cities is getting better. Despite the first decline three years, the latest labor market report from ETSU shows the number of jobs is back to pre-recession levels.

"The rest of the country is nowhere close to that level of economic recovery," says Dr. Steb Hipple, an ETSU economist, "so with that in the background some jiggling in the level of employment is expected."

Overall, 2012 was the first good year for the nation since 2007. Dr. Hipple has tracked our local economy figures for decades, and he say the first quarter of 2013 will be key to see if the progress holds. "The national economy is now creating jobs to take care of the population expansion, also to put people back to work who lost their jobs in the great recession," says Hipple.

The latest report shows the Tri-Cities unemployment is down to 6.7 percent.

He says at one point people were coming here for jobs; as other areas recover, Hipple says they are now leaving. That causes a decline in the number of people looking for work here. "The number of people unemployed is declining as the younger folks leave home go back to other places for their job hunt," describes Hipple.

The region has added the most growth in areas education, health care, and construction.

More than half of the jobs lost came from government. "We are seeing that across the country at the federal, state, and local level," Hipple explained.

Economists say the region is not on solid ground just yet, and talk of the sequester from the federal government could prove troubling. "Most of the impact is not going to see from any actual cutback, but do to the uncertainty and the fear that has been created," says Hipple.

He says the fiscal cliff caused similar effects on the economy.

On the national level, 2012 produced the highest level of job creation since the recovery began in 2009.

It was the best labor market performance since 2007.

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