Alaska unemployment still well under U.S.

Alaska’s unemployment rate for February declined slightly to 7.1 percent. The national rate for last month was 8.3 percent.

According to the state labor department, Alaska’s rate is near its 10-year average. For the last 40 months, unemployment in Alaska has been well below the national rate.

Aleutians East Borough had the lowest jobless rate in February (5 percent), followed by the North Slope and Juneau, at 5.5 percent. A year ago, Juneau’s rate was 6.2 percent.

Health care industry grows
State economist Alyssa Shanks says health care continues to grow in Alaska, like elsewhere in the U.S. Alaska added 1,200 jobs over the year, for a total of 32,200 in the Alaska health care industry in February. About 400 were added between January and February of this year.

Shanks says the growth has been statewide.

“Everything’s a little bit more in Anchorage just because Anchorage makes up so much of the population and so much of the economy,” she says. “But health care really has been growing in most of the borough and census areas, most of the economic regions around the state. Whether it’s new clinics or updating hospitals, enlarging hospitals, building new hospitals, health care has been increasing in most places around the state, kind of broadly speaking.”

Oil and gas
Shanks says 13,500 workers were employed last month in Alaska’s oil and gas industry, an addition of 900 jobs since February 2011. She says 700 of the new jobs came in the first two months of this year.

The highest unemployment rates in the state last month were in the heavily dependent tourism areas of Skagway and the Denali Borough. They’ll soon start adding jobs. While Alaska’s unemployment is highest in January and February, the state starts adding jobs in March, primarily in construction, seafood and tourism.

According to Shanks, the February figures will be revised next month and again at the end of the year.