Seasonal jobs put Southeast to work

Construction jobs are up throughout Southeast Alaska. The so-called SLAM project in Juneau will be ongoing for about two years.

Juneau’s unemployment rate remains one of the lowest in the state, thanks to the summer tourism and construction season.

Statewide, the unemployment rate decreased in 21 of the state’s 29 boroughs and census areas, according to the Alaska Department of Labor.

In Southeast Alaska, jobs swell in the fishing, construction and tourism industries during the spring and summer, though the number of jobs in seafood processing is down slightly this season.

Southeast Regional Economist Molly Abrahamson says tourism — tracked through the transportation, leisure and hospitality, and retail sectors — has been growing the last couple of years, after the downturn in 2009.

For example, the lowest unemployment rate in the state was in Skagway, at 2. 7 percent.  Tourism is Skagway’s major employer in the summer months.

Abrahamson says the construction industry also has been increasing in jobs and wages throughout Southeast over the last couple of years.

“Heavy and industrial engineering construction, so bridges, ports, docks and harbors projects.  And then there’s going to be sort of your residential construction industries and then there’s going to you specialty trade contractors from tile workers to home construction,” she says. “So it was really a mix of growth across industries.”

Some of the projects are courtesy large state capital budgets, such as the State Libraries, Archives and Museum project in Juneau, called SLAM.

“You know, that’s been going on for eight months and they project to have another 30 months of work just with that firm alone,  so you can definitely point to some of those larger projects as boosting the employment,” Abrahamson says. 

At 5.9 percent, the statewide jobless rate remained the same as April, but more than one percent below May 2012.

The national unemployment rate for May was 7.6 percent.

According to the Labor Department, persons counted as unemployed are considered willing and able to work and have been actively seeking a job within the past four weeks.