Anchorage has shed 6,000 jobs since 2015, with 300 of those disappearing last year.
At the same time, the city’s unemployment rate for 2019 was 5.1%, the lowest in nearly 20 years.
Those contradictory numbers make sense when one realizes that the labor force has been moving out of Anchorage, in search of better opportunity in the Lower 48, where the economy is roaring. And the unemployment rate only accounts for those who are actively looking for work.
Since 2015, the Anchorage workforce has declined by about 10,000 people (6.3%) to settle at 149,000, close to where it was in 2004.
These are a few of the conclusions of the annual Anchorage Economic Development Council report, offered today during the AEDC’s annual forecast luncheon at the Dena’ina Center. The report, produced by the McDowell Group, is rich in data that covers nearly all segments of the city’s economy. The annual luncheon is popular with civic leaders and this year was no exception — it sold out.
The population of Alaska’s largest city dropped by 2,600 last year, continuing a trend that started with beginning of the recession in 2015. Anchorage is now home to an estimated 291,845 people in July 2019.
The city has lost 3.1 percent of its population in seven years.
The report shows that 370 government jobs, mostly with the University of Alaska Anchorage, were shedded, a 1.3 percent decrease in government employment. That brings overall government employment in Anchorage back to the level it was in 1998, said Bill Popp, president of AEDC.
About 400 retail jobs left Anchorage last year, with the exits of chain stores like Nordstrom and Pier 1.
On the bright side, oil and gas, construction, and professional services stopped the downward job trend.
AEDC expects Anchorage to gain about 100 jobs in 2020. The health care, visitor industry, construction, professional services, and federal (census-related) government work will contribute jobs, while retail and other government work will shrink, and oil and gas jobs may dip as BP Alaska exits and Hilcorp makes those acquired operations leaner.
Although the report doesn’t delve into the cost of city government for the 3.1 percent fewer people, the municipal budget approved in the November of 2019 is $540 million, a whopping 14.5 percent more than the budget approved in 2014 under former Mayor Dan Sullivan.