State economist: Alaska's still in a recession
The U.S. Department of Labor is showing gains in employment nationwide. National data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics Friday shows employers added 213,000 jobs in June.
But economists in Alaska say the 49th state is still a different story.
"We're still in a recession," Neal Fried, an economist with the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, told KTVA in a live interview Saturday.
"The economy in most of the rest of the country is red hot; the unemployment rate last month for the U.S. was the lowest since the 1960s," Fried said. "Our unemployment rate's not much higher than historical numbers, [it's] not much different than it was four or five years ago, it's just the gap has grown a lot in recent years because the national rate has come down so low."
Alaska has found itself in a recession, as the price oil plunged to below $30 a barrel in 2016. Now, prices have risen to more than twice that figure.
While Fried says the state is still in a recession, he notes that the trend is encouraging.
"It means our budget deficit is getting smaller, and just from a psychological standpoint it's a positive. You know there's a lot of positive happening right now in the oil sector," Fried said.
In January the Anchorage Economic Development Corp. predicted Anchorage would shed about 1,000 jobs in 2018. Fried says the state predicted job loss this year across Alaska.
But those predictions were made before the Alaska Legislature took an unprecedented step in May. Lawmakers used money from the Permanent Fund's earnings to balance the state budget, using the fund as a sort of endowment.
"I don't think it's going to change things very much, that prediction is still, we have numbers and we're still seeing job losses " Fried said of using the Permanent Fund's earnings in that fashion. "It is possible that employment could turn positive sometime this year. There are plenty of sort of economic watchers out there that, keen economic watchers that think that that's certainly a possibility."
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