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August 22, 2021 | Tom Ballard

Latest Knoxville Chamber “ECO” report includes both positive and negative news

By Kailyn Lamb, Marketing Content Writer and Editor, PYA

Hiring continues to look bleak as the Knoxville Chamber released the July edition of the “Economic Conditions Outlook” (ECO) report, which is financed by First Horizon Bank.

In better news, participating businesses in the surveys of manufacturing, retail, and service industries said that general business activity has mostly “improved.” Outlooks for the next several months are reported as “the same,” or in the case of some manufacturing businesses, “improved.”

The three sectors are also combined in their struggles for hiring. In the Chamber’s survey of businesses for this month’s report, it asked about occupations that employers had trouble filling. Warehouse positions made the list for all three groups. In manufacturing, businesses reported struggles in filling positions for clerical and sales support positions. In retail, responders reported a shortage of cashiers, servers, hosts, and cooks. For service businesses, entry-level positions, or positions requiring more than five years of experience, were on the list. In addition, many businesses said they were struggling to fill vacancies that required specific experience, such as plumbers and electricians, as well as nurses and lawyers.

One theory from the report on hiring is that because many businesses are hiring at the same time, it gives applicants more competitive options from which to choose. This is also forcing businesses to increase wages or offer incentives, such as sign-on bonuses. Another theory is that for technical positions which require specific experience, there may not be enough qualified workers in the region.

The unemployment rate in the Knoxville metropolitan statistical area (MSA) was 4.8 percent in June, which was higher than May’s rate of 3.9 percent. There were nearly 36,000 active job postings in June in the Knoxville MSA. The “ECO” estimated that the number of unemployed workers in the area was around 21,000 in June.

Other important trends identified were:

  • Existing home inventory gave sales a boost in June. Home sales increased 15.2 percent from May in the Knoxville MSA. In Knox County sales increased 27.8 percent in June. The median sales price of a home in the Knoxville area was $275,000.
  • The Knoxville MSA collected $113.8 million in state sales taxes in June, which was unchanged from May. Knox County collected $72 million, down 0.5 percent from May.
  • There were 295 business licenses issued in June, a 5.7 percent increase compared to the previous year
  • WalletHub ranked Tennessee #15 in its “Best States for Business Starts” report. The state also was ranked #7 for “Business Environment,” #16 for “Business Costs,” and #39 for “Access to Resources.” Read the report here.
  • Airline travel seems to be slowly returning to McGhee Tyson Airport. The Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority reported nearly 172,000 passengers in May. This was an increase of 441.7 percent compared to May 2020, but still down 25.9 percent from pre-COVID numbers in May 2019.

You can read the full “ECO” report here.

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