Reality Check: Are you an optimist?
I’d like to be optimistic.
After more than three years into Alaska’s recession, the announcement last week from the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation was welcome news. Its economic ouija board is predicting that this is the year we’ll pull out of our economic tailspin-- or reach the bottom-- or turn the corner. Choose a metaphor. It was some long-awaited good news.
It made me feel more optimistic. And indeed, most of the business community is more optimistic. We know because the AEDC asks business leaders four times a year. And right now, optimism is higher than it has been since mid-2015.
Granted, the AEDC is a notoriously optimistic organization. And that’s okay.
But while the numbers themselves are objective, the conclusions drawn from them are, let's call them interpretations.
The numbers tell us Anchorage’s population is getting older and we have lost more than 5 percent of our generation under the age of 25.
That might coincide with the loss of 5700 jobs since 2013 and the projection that we won’t see job growth until 2020.
Housing starts remain depressed, and construction permits, though beginning to grow, are still down 35 percent from 2014.
However, the report does indicate three bright spots. Healthcare jobs continue to grow, which is no surprise with an aging population. There’s also growth in tourism and business at Stevens International, though that’s more likely a product of the improved economy outside Alaska and not in it.
Everything else is pretty much down from last year or stable.
To extrapolate from that that things will improve next year might be little more than wishful thinking. However, there are financial indicators that justify a level of optimism.
The Permanent Fund earned more than $5 billion over the past year.
Oil prices are $75 a barrel, up from $45 a barrel just last summer.
And, lawmakers slowed the digging of Alaska’s financial hole by dedicating a portion of permanent fund earnings to state services. That resulted in Standard and Poor’s upgrading Alaska’s credit outlook from negative to stable.
Wall Street liked the fact we stopped paying ourselves first and are using our investments to support state services, signaling that Alaska is finding its way back to being a place to do business.
Oil prices could fall again-- as could the stock market. And lawmakers could always reverse course on the dividend putting more money in Alaskans' pockets while draining what’s left of our savings accounts.
But we wouldn’t be that foolish, would we? Like I said, I’d like to be optimistic.
John's opinions are his own and are not necessarily those of Denali Media or its employees.
Copyright 2018 KTVA. All rights reserved.
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