How Alaska's recession is impacting skilled trades like carpentry
Alaskans are facing a recession and it's projected job losses in Anchorage will continue through 2018.
The latest numbers from the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation show 3,000 jobs were lost in 2016, with many of them in the construction industry.
At the Southern Alaska Carpenters Training Center, director of training Frank Mucci says people working in construction are in a bind like most industries.
"Man hours are down 20 percent," he said. "It also puts a bind on the training. We've had to make adjustments to account for that."
David Adams is in his third year of apprenticeship and says he and his classmates from the center have been fortunate to find work.
"Keep on trucking and you'll keep working," he said.
Adams transitioned into carpentry after spending a decade in restaurant work and says it's a trade that can also help him at home. He said he's currently working 40 hour weeks.
"It's a demand driven, human driven industry," he said. "So, you have people retiring, people quitting, moving out of state, moving around."
Adams said a lot of the work he's doing right now is considered tenant improvements. Mucci said that wasn't the case more than a decade ago when he entered carpentry.
"When I was an apprentice, we were called out to work before we even finished school," he said. "The Atwood parking garage had 96 carpenters at one point. It was growth everywhere. I think it may stabilize again, but I don't think it will be booming quite like that."
Despite the decrease in man hours, Mucci said there are still job opportunities available and encourages people to apply for apprenticeship programs at their center. He said the center plans to expand its training facility in order to prepare their apprentices to be competitive for the future.
"There is a silver lining," he said. "There's work picking up on the North Slope for scaffolds so we feel we're prepared to weather the storm."
Dr. Gunnar Knapp, professor emeritus of economics at the University of Alaska - Anchorage, says different parts of the state are dealing with different economic circumstances. But Knapp says Alaskans overall are feeling a lot of uncertainty over what's ahead.
"There are many opportunities for growth in the future," he said. "But we are definitely in a period where we've had to adjust to what's happened to oil prices and oil revenues and the state's fiscal situation."
Knapp says the current situation is nowhere near what Alaskans experienced in the late 1980s.
"1986 was a truly awful recession where many of the state's banks went broke," he said. "Housing prices absolutely plummeted, huge numbers of people left the state. It was a very, very bad situation."
Mucci said carpenters could benefit if other industries come to the state.
"We have all our eggs in one basket and we're really counting on the price of the barrel to stabilize and it'd be nice if the state could diversify some of that oil tax money into other industry," Mucci said. "We have zero textile, we don't even have a dairy in the state. When it comes to imports and exports, we export logs, fish, a little gold, a little oil and we import everything else."
Knapp says the state will need to craft a fiscal outline to attract investors and different industries.
"I think one of the most important things the state can do is come up with a credible fiscal plan that puts our state's finances in order so that people have an understanding of what future state spending levels will be, what taxes we'll have and not have, what will happen with Permanent Fund Dividends," Knapp said.