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Alaska's unemployment rate stays at 7.7 percent

Posted: September 19, 2011 - 6:52am

Alaska’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained at 7.7 percent in August, substantially below the national rate and even below last years rate’ at this time, according to August unemployment data released last week by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s Research and Analysis Section.

The new numbers show that as Alaska is continuing to suffer less than the rest of the nation from the lingering effect of the recent recession.

Among the strengths evident in Alaska this year is tourism, which had suffered significantly from the recession. This summer, at the height of the tourist season, the new data shows the sate’s leisure and hospitality sector up 2,600 jobs over last year, to a total of 40,800. That’s the largest sector gain in the state. Overall in August the state was up about 6,000 jobs over last year.

Job growth in Alaska has been strong while the nation has struggled, and state economists said those struggles appear to be why Alaska’s rate is as high as it is.

“Because Alaska’s employment picture remains brighter than in most of the nation, fewer Alaskan job seekers are leaving the state and more people are heading north looking for work, putting upward pressure on the state’s unemployment rate,” said Neal Fried, state labor economist, in an explanation accompanying the monthly data release.

That’s resulting in a growing state population in recent years, and which is expected to continue, he said.

Southeast’s rates were lowest in August as both fishing and tourism remains at near peak levels, Fried said.

Statewide however, the lowest non-seasonally adjusted rates were in fishing-dominated Bristol Bay, at 1.8 percent and tourism-heavy Denali Borough at 3.6 percent.

Skagway had the lowest unemployment rate in Southeast at 3.9 percent, followed by a tie of Juneau, Sitka and Haines at 4.6 percent, Ketchikan at 5.3 percent, Wrangell at 5.6 percent, Petersburg at 6.2 percent, Yakutat at 7.2 percent, Hoonah-Angoon at 10.1 percent and Prince of Wales Island-Hyder with the highest at 12.4 percent.

Juneau’s unemployment rate was down a tenth of a percent from July, and down from 5.1 percent in August of 2010.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or Patrick.forgey@juenauempire.com.

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