Alaska’s job scene looking more like Lower 48
Unemployment in Alaska has been lower than the national rate for nearly 50 months.
Alaska’s unemployment rate historically had been higher than the rest of country, but the state weathered the recession much better than the Lower 48.
Now data suggests some segments of Alaska’s employment scene are beginning to resemble other states, according to state labor economist Neal Fried.
“You look at things like health care, you look at things like retail,” he said, “and you know we have a similar proportion of our workforce that is tied to those industries than the rest of the country.”
Fried says the gap is narrowing in health care, with just 9.6 percent working in health care in Alaska, compared to 10.8 percent in the nationally.
About 11 percent of the U.S. workforce, including Alaska, works in the retail trade industry segment.
Fried says it may be a process of Alaska catching up in some job sectors.
“We were sort of under-retailed a decade ago. We had less, and we still do have a little less in the health care area and that may also be demographics, but we are catching up,” he said. “In retail, we have caught up. I know a lot of Alaskans don’t want to believe this, but we have almost as much retail here as far as people working in that industry as we do in the nation, so in a sense you can say we have arrived.”
Alaska remains unusual in the amount of government employment, where a quarter of the work force is employed, compared to 16 percent nationally.
The December issue of Alaska Economic Trends looks at the state’s employment scene and how the industry mix compares to the U.S. as a whole.