Anchorage unemployment at 6-year high, AEDC says
Unemployment is trending upwards in Anchorage and Alaska, while the national rate continues to decline -- according to findings presented at the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation's 2018 Economic Forecast Luncheon on Wednesday.
AEDC found that unemployment in Alaska's largest city has reached a six-year high, as figures throughout the state reach a four-year high, and national unemployment reaches a 17-year low.
In 2017 alone, employment in Anchorage dropped 1.4 percent, with a loss of 2,100 jobs.
And it's expected to shed another 1,000 jobs in 2018.AEDC estimates much of those job losses will come from the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors, while the oil and gas and construction industries are expected to show strength compared to 2016 and 2017.
"We may not see some of your and my favorite restaurants here in 2018," said Bill Popp, AEDC's CEO and president, encouraging the audience to support local eateries.
Nevertheless, Popp suggested the problem may not be as bad as it sounds.
"This is nowhere near the worst that we've seen," Popp said of the unemployment rates, adding that Anchorage didn't lose as many jobs as originally predicted in 2017.
Popp says the biggest factor contributing to the decline is a lack of certainty surrounding the state's operating budget and tax legislation.
"Nothing else comes close, that's it," Popp said. "Business needs certainty."
Popp says Anchorage is entering its third year of recession because of deficit-spending at the state level.
"We could have avoided it if the state had gotten it's act together," Popp said, adding that 2018 could be the recession's peak if lawmakers take decisive action this year.
Similarly, Anchorage's population is declining along with the state's.
In 2017, the city averaged 297,483 residents, down 0.5 percent from 2016, and 1.1 percent from its peak population in 2013.
AEDC found Anchorage's weak job market coupled with a strong national economy as a significant contributor to the out-migration.
"All of us are weathering an economic low-pressure system," said Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz. "But there is good news on the horizon," he said, citing Sen. Lisa Murkowski's role in opening up a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and Gov. Bill Walker's work on the state's project for a natural gas pipeline.
"Our budget is balanced," Berkowitz added. "And we continue to have a AAA bond rating."
Editor's note: A previous version of this story said Anchorage unemployment had reached a seven-year high.
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