Knoxville’s Population Is Growing
A treasure of good ol’ Rocky Top is the little mountain city of Knoxville, which saw its population grow by over 5,000 new residents during the pandemic. Turns out, Knox County’s secret charms weren’t so secret after all.
Between the low cost of living, plentiful jobs, welcoming southern charm, sense of community and undeniable natural beauty, eastern Tennessee — and Knoxville in particular — offers something for everyone. As for the cost of living, you’ll think you went back in time. Meanwhile, Knoxville’s unemployment rate is lower than the national average and major employers are always hiring.
When it’s time to play, it’s really clear you hit the jackpot. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited national park in the U.S., is in your backyard. Take a hike, go whitewater rafting or just enjoy the fall colors with a picnic by the lake. If nature isn’t your thing, downtown Knoxville has a hopping bar and music scene.
The only downside is Knoxville’s erratic weather. Summers are hot and humid and winters can drop below freezing. But at least you’ll get to experience all four seasons — sometimes all in the same week! And since Knoxville averages only a few inches of snow each year, you won’t need to invest in a heavy-duty snow blower.
While Knoxville may never reach the dizzying heights of Nashville or Memphis, that’s part of its charm. Here, life moves at an easier pace, the people are extra-friendly and there’s a sense of community that bigger cities lack. If you’re looking to plant roots in an affordable, outdoorsy city with heart, Knoxville could be your perfect match.
Considering a move to Knoxville? Count on United Van Lines to get you there, seamlessly and stress-free.
Knoxville’s Job Market Is Also Growing
Knoxville’s job market is thriving and its unemployment is low, so finding work to pay for all the barbecue, craft beer and outdoor adventures may be easier than you think.
With a 3.3% unemployment rate — that’s below the national average of 3.9% as of September 2023 — there are jobs for the taking. Total employment was up 3.4% in October 2023, compared to last year, so you just need to know where to look, starting with the area’s largest non-government employers.
With nearly 88,000 workers, the trade, transportation and utilities industry is booming. In the professional and business services sector, which grew nearly 6% last year, put that college degree to use and snag a job as an accountant, lawyer or consultant. Not in your wheelhouse? Covenant Health, Knox County Schools, Walmart and DENSO Manufacturing all employ more than 5,000 individuals.
Government jobs also abound, with over 60,000 people cashing government paychecks. Employing nearly 16,000 individuals, the area’s largest employer is the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration.
Adding to the city’s allure, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville makes for a diverse cultural and employment base. Combined with UT Medical Center, it, too, employs over 5,000 workers. As a major research institution, UT brings faculty and students from around the world to its campus. Beyond its fierce football loyalties — “Go Big Orange!” — the institution is known for its diverse programs, from the UT Space Institute and the UT Institute of Agriculture to its renowned art program, where printmaking in particular shines.
Even if the pay in Knoxville doesn’t make you a millionaire, the low cost of living means you generally can live comfortably. The average wage for people in Knoxville is around $48,000 a year, though the fact that Tennessee has no income tax helps.
Knoxville’s Cost of Living Is Low
Knoxville’s cost of living is 17.8% below the national average, which means your dollars go further in the Volunteer State.
Compared to the U.S. average of 100, healthcare, transportation and utilities all fall well below the mark at 88.3, 91.4 and 95 points, respectively. But housing costs are where you’ll save the most. On average, Knoxville residents spend only 72.8 cents for every dollar the rest of America spends on housing. All told it is 13.5% less expensive to live in Knoxville than in the average American city.
Although the median home value in Knoxville averaged just $184,200 between 2018 and 2022, only 46% of Knoxville residents own their own home, compared to 67% of Tennesseans and 54% of Nashville residents (who pay nearly 100% more). Accordingly, rent in Knoxville is also more affordable than national standards, averaging $1,043 monthly.
Add that to the fact Knoxville residents don’t pay state and personal income tax. Additionally, the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce offers several tax incentives to both businesses and individuals. However, there’s a flip side to that — the average combined sales tax rate is 9.55%, the nation’s highest.
Please note: we are not tax experts and are not offering tax advice, other than that you should consider obtaining additional information and advice from your legal and/or financial advisers who are fully aware of your individual circumstances.
There Are Four Seasons Here
Before you dive headfirst into Knoxville’s all-but-irresistible Southern charm, prepare yourself for a few quirks of life in this East Tennessee gem.
For starters, when it comes to Knoxville’s seasons, there are four. You may go from bundling up for sweater weather one day to sweating through your seersucker the next.
The fall foliage puts on a spectacular show, but autumn’s beauty is fleeting — those golden leaves vanish as quickly as your summer tan. And spring? Fuhgeddaboudit. Pollen season descends like a yellow plague, coating everything in fine dust and reducing half the population to sneezing, sniffling wrecks.
Still, the natural scenery is gorgeous. On clear days, the Smoky Mountains shimmer like a mirage in the distance. Nearby lakes and rivers offer escape from the heat, and outdoor adventures abound for nature lovers. Just watch out for the wildlife — everything from turtles to turkeys may dart across the road at any given moment. And whatever you do, don’t leave food outside unless you want to host an impromptu squirrel — or black bear — soiree.
Downtown is Knoxville’s beating heart. There, you’ll find shopping, dining, nightlife and culture at every turn. On Gay Street, grab Southern fare at the no-frills Brown Bag, catch a show at the historic Bijou Theater or sip craft cocktails at Maple Hall.
Nightlife gets rowdy a few blocks over in the Old City neighborhood, Knoxville’s former red-light district. By day, check out the art galleries, like the Arrowmont. On the weekend, head to the Old City Winter Market to score handmade goods from local makers. And speaking of markets, Market Square turns into a seasonal winter wonderland when the ice rink is up.
If city life isn’t your jam, head west to Farragut, one of Knoxville’s ritziest ‘burbs. Gorgeous homes, country clubs and Fort Loudoun Lake make this nabe a natural paradise. Work up an appetite paddling or fishing. When night falls, grab refined Southern fare at Elkmont Station. Its bouillabaisse and trout are catches of the day.
The City Is a Perfect Spot for Outdoor Adventures
Knoxville offers outdoor adventures for days, no matter your age, ability or affinity for adrenaline.
Amid East Tennessee’s rolling hills, trek through the woods at Ijams Nature Center, where you can spot turtles sunbathing and birds flitting through the forest canopy. Or hit up House Mountain for panoramic views of the city without the crowds.
Feeling hardcore? The Smokies are calling your name. Straddling the borders of North Carolina and Tennessee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is best-known for its mist-hung peaks and valleys, incredible biodiversity, bountiful, leafy forests and proliferation of wildflowers. Featuring a segment of the Appalachian Trail, plentiful streams, rivers and waterfalls appear along hiking routes. Offering sky-high. panoramas of the ancient, fog-shrouded mountains, there is an observation tower atop Clingmans Dome, the park’s highest peak.
If you prefer paddling to pounding pavement (or trails), Knoxville’s got you covered with over 1,000 acres for hiking, biking, climbing and paddling. The Tennessee River winds right through town, ideal for kayaking, canoeing or stand-up paddleboarding. Feeling lazy? Float along in an inner tube with a cold beer in hand. For thrill-seekers, the Ocoee River’s world-class rapids are just up the road.
From leisurely strolls to heart-pounding thrills, the city’s natural playgrounds guarantee entertainment for all. So, ditch the couch, get outside and embrace the spirit. The fresh air will serve you well.
Other Attractions for Everyone
Those looking for all ages fun should head to Zoo Knoxville, nestled on grassy hills overlooking the river, which is home to giant tortoises, playful otters and majestic red pandas. Or hit up World’s Fair Park, site of the 1982 World’s Fair. Check out the Sunsphere to ride the Ferris wheel or catch a show at the Tennessee Amphitheater.
Looking for a change of pace — and a dose of architectural history? Take a guided tour of the Historic House Museums, a local partnership between seven historic homes and the Museum of East Tennessee History.
In the winter, an outdoor ice rink brings the heart of the city to life, made merrier by peppermint lights and snowy storefronts. Pick up gifts from local makers at the Winter Market or treat yourself to handcrafted confections at Coffee & Chocolate. For dinner, the Brass Pearl oyster bar serves fish and chips and sea bass with lobster risotto. Be sure to start with a seafood tower — you’ll want to sample everything.
Feeling adventurous? Head to the Old City, Knoxville’s former red-light district now filled with bars, venues and art galleries. Hear an Irish jam at Boyd’s Jig and Reel one night and a vaudeville show the next. The area’s Victorian buildings now house studios and shops worth a gander. When it’s time to caffeinate, head to Awaken Coffee for a jolt.
Prepare for Your Move to Knoxville
Moving to Knoxville from a Tennessee city? Our interstate agents can provide local move services for moves from any city in Tennessee to Knoxville under their businesses and brands.
Whether you opt for a full-service move or choose to DIY, United Van Lines has a wealth of moving resources to simplify your move.