Unemployment still sticking it to Alaska economy


U.S. unemployment dropped to 3.9 percent last month, well within the range considered to be full employment by federal agencies that monitor such data.

But the Alaska job market is still in the doldrums, with unemployment the highest in the nation at 7.3 percent, even while  nearly 9,000 people left in the last year.

A year ago in April, Alaska’s unemployment rate was 6.6 percent.

The national economy added 164,000 jobs in April, according to the Labor Department, on top of the 135,000 jobs added a month earlier, and private sector earnings in the country increased by 2.6 percent year over year.

Workers also took more home in their paychecks due to federal tax cuts passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump. For someone making $50,000 a year, they were able to keep an additional $1,440 per year, typically.

In Alaska, March was the 29th consecutive month of job losses recorded by the State Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Wages dropped 4.7 percent.

Some 26,400 Alaskans are considered to be unemployed in a civilian workforce that is estimated at 363,000 by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. One out of five jobs in Alaska is a government job, for a total of more than 81,000 Alaskans working for local, state, or federal agencies.

A bright spot for the employment scene is the marijuana industry, which grew its workforce to 536 by December of 2017. As Alaska heads into its growing season, it may continue to be the “growth” sector for the state’s economy. And it’s just in time for all those college students who are heading home and looking for that summer job.

Monthly jobs in the marijuana industry in Alaska (from the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.)


After three years of persistent job losses in Alaska, what do you think Alaskans should do to take control of their economy and grow jobs again? Add your ideas — big and small — in the comment section.


  1. It is this kind of factually accurate information that will motivate Alaska voters to go to the polls. The sky is falling mentality that the current governor puts out combined with his push for an income tax has become a self fulfilling job killer and motivation for some to leave the state. Once we get his replacement in office there will renewed confidence in our leadership and an improved outlook for our economy.

  2. A new administration that is committed to working with the private sector and reducing the weight of government administration will do wonders for the economy. Instead of lecturing the private sector and pursuing pet initiatives, let the adults back into the room. We have work to do.

  3. Both Alaskans First and Larry were clear, concise and accurate in their analysis of the situation. Unfortunately, they forgot to point out that the Legislature has enabled a major component of this problem. Additionally, they are currently working on continuing their job-cutting efforts and making it worse. Having been intimately involved in the Transportation sector, and the jobs that the state participated in providing through contracting until the Governor and Legislature cut Capital Projects by 44%, the finger is pointed at both sets of governmental entities for our current joblessness woes.

    Government’s on-going efforts to maintain a bloated administrative budget and expensive overhead while placing the burden on the citizenry needs to stop.

    • The only choice you have in government is who to lay off. If you take the cuts out of the Operating rather than the Capital Budget, you put those people on the street. I think there could have been a better balance between Operating and Capital Budget cuts, but it is a zero sum game; somebody gets laid off.

      • Respectfully disagree.

        Lay them off, unions be damned.

        Government may be one of Alaska’s only two growth industries.

        However, more than a few of us are weary of watching this cancer metastasize at our expense just because our lobbyist-legislator-union team decides it can.

        Maybe it’s time for a referendum that demands an outside, forensic audit of state finances and management practices with fully published results.

        Then we’ll be able to talk “budget” with verifiable facts in hand instead of being relegated to spectators watching amateur magicians fumble through their tricks with our money.

  4. I have no confidence in the state’s leadership at all. Looking forward to the election. Part of the unemployment numbers are comprised of those on the dole. Why work when you get freebies? At times my father worked 3 jobs. We always had a house and food on the table. No handouts.

  5. Could it be that Alaska’s unemployment is high because little demand exists for second- or third-generation, functionally illiterate socialistas who can’t seem to decide what time, or even if, they should attend school…

    or that Alaska’s only two growth industries, government and “health care” may have metastasized as much as our moribund economy will support?

    Maybe Alaskans lack the will to take control of their economy and grow jobs, because we feel crushed by Alaska’s version of the “establishment”.

    Seems like if we want an economy and jobs to grow, we first have to clean house and clear the field:

    1. dismantle our education industry, contract it out to a proven foreign or stateside entity,
    2. run off the bums, ACLU, and the lobbyist half of our lobbyist-legislator team,
    3. move the capital to Anchorage, end legislative per diem, create biennial legislative sessions
    4. force transparency on medical and insurance industries,
    5. eliminate Medicaid expansion,
    6. force able-bodied welfare and Medicaid recipients to get jobs,
    7. force all non-profit corporations to make payments in lieu of taxes,
    8. force villages which expel their bums to make payments to cities who must care for their bums,
    9. set budgets and taxes by referenda to include periodic outside audits of departmental management and budget practices, until legislators demonstrate competency to do so themselves,
    10. collaborate with tourist, oil industries, and other enterprises instead of treating them like sheep to be shorn,
    11. scrap hunting, fishing, mining regulations, rewrite them in plain language with input from adult Alaskans,
    12. require University of Alaska officials to produce a plan within thirty days to create a nationally recognized university system within one year, or fire them and contract out university management and improvement to a proven foreign or stateside entity,
    13. scrap the Alaska Municipal League and return the money to Alaskan taxpayers,
    14. enforce complete transparency on state and local-government contracts for labor and/or material,
    15. eliminate funding for legislative junkets,
    16. commission an outside, baseline audit of state-government management and budgeting practices and publish the results,
    17. scrap the Alaska gas line project immediately,
    18. eliminate unnecessary regulations that inflate private and commercial property costs,
    19. enact and enforce vigorous anti-trespassing laws,
    20. justify exigent need for every group on the roster of the governor’s active boards and commissions,
    21. defund every entity listed in the Alaska Public Policy Forum’s “Pork Book”,
    22. commission an outside audit of our road-building process, figure out what causes the ruts, shoddy materials, bad construction practices, overweight vehicles, or is it studded tires as we’re supposed to believe,
    23. commission an outside law-enforcement consultant to write an effective, enforceable criminal-law statute for Alaska,
    24. restore Permanent Fund Dividends to previous levels,
    25. write in “Suzanne Downing” where the ballot says vote for governor…

    For starters… gotta be more…

    Then we -might- have a chance to take control of our economy and persuade job creators we’re open for business.

    What say you, Gentle Readers?

  6. Academic studies show that states that are focused on government programs and spending are systematically less robust and resilient than states states that are not. Government programs and spending produce economic networks that are fragile. And obviously, when the government money runs out, things really go south. In this respect, the late Senator Stevens did not do us any long-lasting favors.

    Alaska and our leaders need to acknowledge this fundamental problem and redesign government efforts to support a growing, complex, continuing and uninhibited (save for health & safety issues) private sector.

    In other words, Alaska needs to put down the donuts (and the pot), start exercising, engage in productive activities and grow up.

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