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SE population: numbers hold steady as ages increase

Posted: December 16, 2012 - 1:00am

Southeast Alaska population numbers are not expected to change much in the next decade. However, this population is expected to get older.

This can have the upshot of creating more living-wage jobs.

“Healthcare has been sticking out at least since the 1990s as a much stronger than average growth industry,” Robinson said. The baby boomers as they get older are expected to require more health care, he said.

Economies are big and complicated, Robinson said. Numbers within the economy, like Juneau’s jobs numbers, don’t change very fast.

“Those things don’t skyrocket or plummet,” Robinson said. Only a few major events like World War Two, the TransAlaska Pipeline and old boom bumped up Alaska’s population quickly.

Alaska more than any other state is affected by migration. About 45,000 people move in and out of Alaska yearly. During the recent recession Alaska’s and Juneau’s population grew.

Juneau’s growth was strong through the middle part of the 20th century. Population growth flattened out in the 1990s through the early 2000s.

Southeast Alaska and Juneau have a slightly older population than the rest of the state. Fewer people are having children in the region as well.

State workers in Juneau are older than state workers in Alaska overall.

So a large group of Alaskan’s could retire in mass. If these state workers retire in the historic rate “we are going to be swimming in 60-, 70- or 80-year olds,” Robinson said.

If every state worker who retires retires and stays in Alaska, and these workers are replaced by workers who move to Juneau, “the numbers are so big it would be … important for us to watch how these numbers settle,” Robinson said.

The Department of Labor projected Juneau’s population to be around 31,000 in 2010. Preliminary population numbers for 2011 total 32,290. This is nearly 300 more than predicted for the year 2020. This 1,000-person jump from 2010 to 2011 year could be an outlier, Robinson said.

“Or the other possibility is that something is happening and growth has picked up,” Robinson said. “If 2012 comes in at 33,000 or so, very quickly we a adjust our projections.”

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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