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CBJ Assembly hears state stats: Juneau aging, population set to decline steadily

Posted: April 4, 2011 - 10:05pm

Census and other data collected by the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development shows Juneau is an aging community and it’s population is likely to steadily decline over the next 20 years.

The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly’s Committee of the Whole Monday learned about population and employment trends in Southeast Alaska from demographer Elisabeth Goodman and economist Mali Abrahamson of the Department of Labor.

Goodman said the Anchorage/Mat-Su area is booming in population and employment — a trend that will steadily grow over the next 20 years.

Southeast, she said, had its growth spurt in the 1970s through the 1990s, but has leveled off. She said population changes happen due to births, deaths and migration. Goodman said death trends are fairly predictable and growth in births can add some unanticipated increases, however the bulk of change occurs with migration.

Goodman discussed fertility rates among the declining population regions.

“As far as the Southeast goes, low fertility rates are due to the higher ages of the population and slowly increasing to retirement ages,” she said.

Goodman said none of the boroughs in Southeast saw a net increase in migration last year, and only four saw an increase in population — Juneau one of them by less than half a percent.

Population demographics changed a little with the census. In 2000, 74.8 percent of the state’s population was white, while in 2010 that number slid to 69.7 percent, as minority populations increased.

Goodman also showed two pyramid structure graphs, one of Juneau in 2000 that had more of a pyramid shape, one in 2010 with a rectangular shape.

“What you can tell from these two different pyramids is the population is aging,” Goodman said.

She explained that as it becomes more rectangular you will see an older population ready for replacement levels. She said that because of the 2.1 percent fertility rate, Juneau does have replacement levels.

Meanwhile, in the economic sector Abrahamson showed a graph of changes in salary and employment and it showed a lot of variability and no specific trend across all industries.

In 2010 Juneau saw an 0.4 percent increase in employment from the prior year — which is when Juneau was hit the hardest with the recession. In 2009, there was a 2.2 percent decrease. Abrahamson said she hopes she will be able to come back and adjust 2011’s number, but it’s forecasted to be a 1.1 percent decrease this year, although she said third quarter is improving.

Abrahamson said of more than 700 jobs lost in Southeast in 2009, 650 came out of Juneau.

Most of the losses came from the trade/transportation/utility sector, but high losses were also in retail and construction.

Mayor Bruce Botelho asked if there was specific transportation data and wondered if those losses came due to a decline in the tourism industry.

Abrahamson said it’s possible, since transportation and leisure/hospitality can overlap. She also pointed out that each job loss isn’t one full-time job, part-time and seasonal are counted. She said there also was a decrease in the general public transportation as well.

Abrahamson said that Juneau’s recovery in 2010 happened because of professional services — mostly medical — and because of Kensington Mine.

Deputy Mayor Merrill Sanford said he asked for this presentation because of the declining trend in Juneau and Southeast. He said the city government can either sit by and do nothing or can work at reversing the trend.

“If we have enough individual little businesses that come in, they can do that for us,” he said.

Assemblyman Bob Doll questioned contradicting data. In part of the packet from the department, it shows Southeast gained 3,000 jobs, but lost population. Doll said it didn’t make sense since the timber industry lost jobs.

Botelho suggested that an overall increase in the tourism industry is the reason for that discrepancy. He said that because each job is counted — not necessarily full-time — that could account for the shift.

Abrahamson said there can be developments in the community that can cause that kind of discrepancy.

The COW also heard a report about after school programs, however, much of that information was discussed after press time.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com.

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