Hiring strong, but unemployment rate up slightly

Alaska’s summer hiring boom is in full effect. The economy added about 20,000 jobs in June, according to monthly employment statistics released Friday by the state Labor Department.

State Economist Mali Abrahamson says the visitor industry led the way, adding more than 5,000 jobs from May to June. Tourism jobs were up more than 2,400 from June 2010.

“Putting us back closer to levels that we were seeing in 2007 and 2008 before consumer confidence kind of tanked during the recession and we saw a decline,” Abrahamson said.

Health care continues to have one of the largest and fastest growing job bases in Alaska, while oil and gas and mining have remained steady or seen moderate growth. The government sector took a dip from May to June as jobs in education dropped from payrolls for the summer.

The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose slightly to 7.5 percent in June. But Abrahamson calls the increase statistically insignificant, as May’s rate was revised down from 7.4 percent to 7.3 percent. She says the increase can be attributed to more people looking for work.

For the 31st consecutive month Alaska’s unemployment rate was below the national average of 9.2 percent – up slightly from 9.1 percent in May. Abrahamson says states with resource-based economies, like Alaska’s, appear to have done well at weathering the national recession.

“Rather than the manufacturing, the residential construction – where you saw a lot of losses in the Lower 48 – not so much up in Alaska,” said Abrahamson.” And that’s true of other states that have similar features, North Dakota for instance.”

Juneau’s unemployment rate went from 4.9 percent in May to 5.5 percent last month – the same rate as June 2010.

The lowest unemployment rate in the state last month was two percent in Bristol Bay, where hiring in the fishing industry was strong. The highest rate was 23.5 percent in Western Alaska’s Wade Hampton Census Area, which has experienced chronic under-employment.

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