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Juneau employment picture remains strong, shows gains

Posted: October 23, 2011 - 12:11am

Even while the nation struggles, Juneau’s employment picture is getting brighter. The unemployment rate in September was 4.5 percent; down from 5.1 percent a year ago, according to state Department of Labor & Workforce Development data released Friday.

Juneau’s September rate is unchanged from August, but the numbers behind the rate show a strengthening economy as well.

Over the last year, the number of unemployed in Juneau has decreased from 949 to 868, while the size of the labor force has increased from 18,657 to 19,371.

Statewide, the seasonally adjusted rate dropped during the month by a tenth of a percent, while the rate is three-tenths below that of a year ago.

The national rate, also seasonally adjusted, was unchanged during the month, but over the last year a slow improvement shows the national rate down half a percentage point.

State economist Neil Fried said that while the national rate was improving, it’s been a slow process. It peaked at more than 10 percent two years ago.

While down slightly, Fried noted in his monthly analysis that it “has shown no clear trend up or down in most of 2011.”

The number of jobs in Alaska peaked at an all-time high during the summer, and September employment was 342,000, up 3,700 over the year.

“Although Alaska and U.S. job numbers were both up by about 1 percent over September 2010 levels, the national numbers remain significantly below pre-recession levels while Alaska has more than recovered from its relatively small recession-related losses,” Fried said.

Rates varied statewide, but Southeast’s were the lowest overall, led by Juneau. Next was Skagway’s 5.0 percent, Sitka’s 5.4 percent, Ketchikan’s 5.5 percent, Yakutat’s 7.2 percent, Wrangell’s 7.3 percent, Petersburg’s 7.9 percent, Hoonah-Angoon’s 10.8 percent, and Prince of Wales Island’s 12.9 percent.

Industries that have done well in Alaska over the last year include health care, which added 1,900 jobs, leisure and hospitality, which added 1,600 and retail trade with 1,200.

The state’s oil and gas sector, the source of ongoing political debate over hiring levels, added 400 jobs over the last year.

The biggest decrease came in government jobs, down 1,700 over the year, and manufacturing, largely seafood processing, which was down 400 jobs.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

9/11 8/11 9/10

Alaska 7.6% 7.7% 7.9%

U.S. 9.1% 9.1% 9.6%

Note: Rates are seasonally adjusted

Source: Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Research and Analysis Sections

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