More job losses, population leaving state


Alaska’s employment was down 0.5 percent in January, 2018 compared to a year ago.

That represents another 1,600 jobs the state has lost, or an average of 133 jobs lost per month, according to the Alaska Department of Labor.

Oil and gas employment was down by another 5.9 percent, with a loss of 600 jobs, and the construction sector lost 2.5 percent, or 300 jobs.

Federal employment was down 2.1 percent, or 300 jobs, while state government was down by only 0.8 percent, or 200 jobs, and local government by 0.5 percent, 200 jobs.

The only two industries to add jobs were health care, which was up  3 percent,  or 1,100 jobs, and transportation, warehousing and utilities with an increase of 0.5 percent, or 100 jobs.

Alaska’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased one-tenth of a percentage point to 7.3 percent, up from 6.5 percent in January of 2017. The comparable national rate for January was 4.1 percent.

Alaska’s not-seasonally adjusted rate was 8.1 percent, up eight-tenths of a percentage point from December.

Unemployment rates rose in all areas except Dillingham and the Aleutians, where winter fisheries buoyed employment. Aleutians East and West also had the lowest unemployment rates in the state, at or near 3 percent. Rates were highest in areas that depend on summer tourism, such as Denali Borough and Skagway, and rural areas with few jobs, such as the Yukon-Koyukuk and Kusilvak census areas.

In January, the state released estimates showing that over the past two years, Alaska has lost nearly 9,000 people, and 2017 was the fifth year in a row for net migration loss, the longest losing streak ever for the state.

Alaska has the highest population turnover of any state. Forty one percent of the population of Alaska was born in the state, compared with 32 percent in 1980, but the population is highly migratory, according to the Department of Labor.

In Alaska there is a remarkably stable out-migration rate as people leave the state for jobs, higher education, military transfer or other personal reasons. What varies most is the in-migration rate, which plummets during economic downturns and does not sufficiently offset the steady annual outflow. Conversely, in-migration leaps during times of strong job growth, which combined with the natural birth rate leads to periods of overall population growth.

[Read former Gov. Sean Parnell: Alaska needs to bring jobs back]