Statewide unemployment up a bit, local numbers drop

Tourism hiring in May keeps job growth strong in Southeast

Alaska’s workforce is beefing up for summer in tourist towns.

Juneau’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.5 percent in May, according to the Department of Labor & Workforce Development’s Research and Analysis Section.

The state’s star performer, however, was Skagway, which turned in the lowest unemployment rate in Alaska at 3.6 percent, down from April’s 15.4 percent, the state’s third highest.

Nationally, and in Alaska, seasonally adjusted unemployment rates each rose one tenth of a percent.

Alaska’s unemployment rate was 7.0 percent in May, while the national rate was 8.2 percent, each called “essentially unchanged” by Neil Fried, Labor Department economist.

May’s rates are well below the rates of a year ago, Fried said, with Alaska’s rate below both its historic level and below that of most other states.

Alaska is one of just seven states that had more jobs in April than it did in December of 2007, when the recent recession started. Nationally, the job count is still 5 million lower than it was in 2007, Fried said.

State employment data shows last month the state had big job gains, adding about 7,500 jobs, about half of which were in the leisure and hospitality sector, including hotels, restaurants and bars.

Most Southeast communities besides Juneau saw unemployment rates drop as well, though not as much as Skagway’s decrease of 11.8 percentage points.

Sitka’s rate was 5.7 percent in May, Ketchikan was 6.3 percent, Wrangell and Haines were each 7.0 percent, Yakutat was 8.2 percent, Petersburg was 10.5 percent, Prince of Wales Island was 13.2 percent and Hoonah-Angoon area was 13.6 percent.

The Southeast as a whole has an unemployment rate of 6.2 percent, down three-tenths of a percent from the same month last year as the region saw both more jobs and fewer unemployed.

Alaska has traditionally had a higher unemployment rate that the nation, but fell below it in 2008 and has remained there ever since. The margin remained unchanged in May.

Nineteen states had lower unemployment rates than Alaska, two were the same and 28 had higher rates.

The highest unemployment rate in the nation was Nevada at 11.7 percent, with North Dakota the lowest at 3 percent.

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

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