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State, local unemployment continues downward trend

Alaska's streak below national rate now extends to three years

Posted: November 20, 2011 - 12:09am

Alaska’s employment picture remains strong, especially compared to the rest of the nation, but Juneau is doing even better, according to the latest unemployment numbers released by the Alaska Department of Labor & Workforce Development.

Juneau’s October unemployment rate was 5.0 percent, up from September’s 4.5 percent in normal seasonal variation, but below the 5.5 percent from October of 2010.

Juneau was tied with the North Slope Borough, where oil jobs remained strong, for the state’s lowest unemployment rate.

Alaska’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in October was 7.4 percent, down from 7.5 percent in September. The nation’s unemployment rate was 9.0 percent, also down a tenth of a percent from September.

“Alaska’s unemployment rate has been below the nation’s for exactly three years now, an unusual relationship after decades of the state’s rate being one or two percentage points higher than the nation’s,” said Neal Fried, economist with the department’s Research and Analysis Section, which produces the numbers.

That’s follows decades of being consistently higher than the national rate.

The national unemployment rate is closing on Alaska’s a bit, with the national rate declining seven-tenths of a percentage point from October of last year, while Alaska was down half a percentage point during the same period.

Statewide, areas of job growth included health care, which added 1,700 jobs over the year, retail trade at 900, leisure and hospitality at 800, professional and business services at 600, and oil and gas at 300.

Areas of decline over the year were government, which lost 1,200 jobs, financial activities, which lost 400, manufacturing at 200 and construction at 100.

During the last year, Juneau has added several hundred new jobs, while the state as a whole had added 2,300.

During the month of October, however, both Juneau and the state saw the number of unemployed people rise a bit, which Fried called “typical as the job market continues its annual transition from summer to winter.”

That was most stark in Skagway, which during the summer tourist season has one of the lowest unemployment rates. It’s unemployment rate in October jumped from 5.0 percent in September to 21.7 percent, highest in the state, in October

Other Southeast rates included Sitka at 5.9 percent, Ketchikan at 6.6 percent, Haines at 7.9 percent, Yakutat at 8.0 percent, Petersburg at 8.3 percent, Wrangell at 9.9 percent, Prince of Wales-Hyder at 13.1 percent and Hoonah-Angoon at 13.8 percent.

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

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