State’s Unemployment Rate Rises Slightly

Alaska’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose slightly to 7.5 percent in June. The Alaska Department of Labor calls the increase statistically insignificant, as May’s rate was revised up, from 7.3 percent to 7.4 percent.

State Economist Mali Abrahamson says the increase can be attributed to more people looking for work during the summer hiring season. She says tourism employment has been strong this year. The sector added more than 5,000 jobs in Alaska from May to June, and was up about 2,400 jobs over last year.

“Putting us back closer to levels that we were seeing in 2007 and 2008 before consumer confidence kind of tanked during the recession and we saw a decline,” Abrahamson said.

The health care field continues to have one of the largest and fastest growing job bases in Alaska, while oil and gas and mining have remained steady, or seen moderate growth. The government sector took a dip from May to June as jobs in education dropped from payrolls for the summer.

For the 31st consecutive month, Alaska’s unemployment rate was below the national average of 9.2 percent – up slightly from 9.1 percent in May. Abrahamson says states with resource-based economies, like Alaska, appear to have done better at weathering the national recession.

“Rather than the manufacturing, the residential construction – where you saw a lot of losses in the Lower 48 – not so much up in Alaska. And that’s true of other states that have similar features, North Dakota for instance,” Abrahamson said.

The lowest unemployment rate in the state last month was 2 percent in Bristol Bay, where hiring in the fishing industry was strong. The highest rate was 23.5 percent in the Wade Hampton Census Area, a wide swath across interior Alaska to the coast, which has chronic under-employment.  In Juneau, the Juneau’s unemployment rate went from 4.9 percent in May to 5.5 percent last month – the same rate as June 2010.

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Casey Kelly is a reporter at KTOO in Juneau.

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