Monday, June 5, 2023
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Shrinking population, Sam’s Club closing

It’s not your imagination — there really are fewer people in Alaska than a couple of years ago.

According to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the state’s population dropped for the first time in 29 years.

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We’re now at 737,080, down 2,629 since 2016. Out-migration has been negative for five years in a row, meaning that more people are leaving the state than moving in.

Last year at this time, the department announced that the state’s population had actually increased by 2,645 people—about one-third of 1 percent—from July 2015 to July 2016. Most of that came from babies being born.

New births are keeping the population from not falling faster, but they are not keeping up with the number of people who are moving out of the state.

Alaska’s job market is the worst in the nation, with unemployment remaining above 7 percent. As employable people move out of state, the demographic make-up will shift to both an older population, and a very young one, neither of which are part of the workforce.

Alaska lost 6,300 jobs in 2016, and 3,600 jobs in 2017. This year, another 1,800 jobs are projected to disappear, for a total of 11,800 jobs in three years.

The birth rate is the lowest it has been in over a decade, with 10,786 babies born in 2017. The number of deaths, 4,530, is the highest on record.

Here’s the breakdown on where Alaskans live:


Sam’s Club will close its Alaska locations on Jan. 26. The company has three stores in Alaska — two in Anchorage and one in Fairbanks. Today the stores are shuttered while the staff prepares for going-out-of-business sales. They’ll open tomorrow, and people who purchased membership cards can stop in and get their fees refunded.

Sam’s Club tweeted out the news: “After a thorough review of our existing portfolio, we’ve decided to close a series of clubs and better align our locations with our strategy. Closing clubs is never easy and we’re committed to working with impacted members and associates through this transition.”

Sams Club stores in other states will also be closing. The news came at the same time Walmart announced it will increase its hourly minimum wage to $11 and give bonuses of $1,000 to many of its workers.

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Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.


  1. Suzanne, thank you for keeping us Alaskans up to the state’s changing dynamics – and including news other than political. Although population dynamics certainly effect politics.

  2. A lot of Bill Walker superlatives come to mind; longest recession of any Alaska governor, more credit rating downgrades than all other Alaska governors COMBINED, lowest wage growth, on, and on and on. Another 4 years of Walker would put us in the poor house. Walker is by far the most divisive governor we have had too; in fact in some respects he is the only divisive governor we have had. And what a disaster for Alaska he has been! Maybe he can transition to the old guys wresting federation and show up as the Disaster for Alaska.

  3. It would seem as if Governor Walker is implementing an anti-Trump strategy to fix Alaska’s economy. The governor wants to take money out of the private economy, and has through the PFD take, and put it into the government economy.
    Just look at the U.S. economy. Unemployment at near record lows. And now more wealth will be pumped into the private economy with the newly passed Tax Reform bill. This will provide citizens even more wealth to spend as they see fit. Governor Walker, pay attention–things like PFD taxes, income taxes, payroll taxes take money out of ordinary Alaskans’ piggy banks and stash that money into the plump government piggy bank. Kinda like Econ 101.

  4. “Although population dynamics certainly effect politics.” While this is certainly true, so is the reverse. And I suspect the current out-migration is primarily a result of the last few years of really bad “politics.” It absolutely played a large role in my family moving out after 18 years. So many RINOs have lied their way into positions of power, so many more L48’ers are hard at work turning Alaska into the wasteland they moved away from…to put up with that AND the high unemployment AND the high cost of living AND the ever-escalating crime AND six months of winter at a time, but without the perks of more than 2-3 grocery stores and quality + quantity family opportunities is just no longer worthwhile. The specter of taxes everywhere, and PFD theft, we’re the backbreaking straws for this camel. At least where we are now, the liberals are honest about their goals and intent.

  5. What’s the problem?

    Alaskans should be grateful for a governor and lobbyist-legislator team who have worked so hard for the last five years to make our recession the signature piece of their careers.

    Look at the bright side:

    Alaska has two growth industries, government and “health care”, which ought to keep right on growing, even if a few people leave or a few stores close.

    Alaska legislators’ salaries won’t go down.

    Public-employee unions won’t lose money.

    It doesn’t matter that “the demographic make-up will shift to an older population, and a very young one, neither of which are part of the workforce” because oldies, though difficult to govern, go away after a while, and the very young stay with parents until age twenty-six, after which government assumes their parenting role.

    Everybody wins!

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