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Report: Juneau's private sector saw growth in 2012

City's economy is on the upswing overall, report says

Posted: October 18, 2013 - 12:05am
Brian Holst, executive director of the Juneau Economic Development Council, and Eva Bornstein, Program Officer, explain some of the numbers in JEDC's recently released 2013 Juneau & Southeast Alaska Economic Indicators at their offices Thursday.  Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Brian Holst, executive director of the Juneau Economic Development Council, and Eva Bornstein, Program Officer, explain some of the numbers in JEDC's recently released 2013 Juneau & Southeast Alaska Economic Indicators at their offices Thursday.

Juneau’s private sector is seeing a growth spurt and is expanding faster than the public sector, according to the 2013 Juneau and Southeast Alaska Economic Indicators report from the Juneau Economic Development Council.

Both the public and private sectors saw an approximately 5 percent bump in salaries in 2012, the report stated. However, while the private sector increased jobs by 3 percent, local, state and federal government cut jobs by 1 percent.

JEDC’s Eva Bornstein, who compiled the 56-page report and presented highlights at Thursday’s Juneau Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Moose Lodge, said government job losses can be attributed to steady decreases in federal and state positions in Juneau over several years, as well as the slashing of 110 city government jobs over the year. The school district, Juneau’s largest government employer, took the biggest hit, Bornstein said. Budget cuts are the culprit behind local government shrinkage, the report stated.

Even with decreases in government positions, Juneau’s 7,615 government workers earned $419 million in 2012 — almost half of Juneau’s wages.

“Being so dependent on government is always looming over Juneau,” Bornstein said at the lunch. “But the private sector is doing a good job” growing its industries.

The private sector, in its fourth straight year of expansion, saw an increase of 270 jobs in 2012, the report stated. Industries of note were mining and natural resources, which led job creation for the third year in a row with a 26 percent increase. Tourism saw a turnaround following two consecutive years of job losses in the industry.

A good indicator of the health of the local economy is the professional and business services industry — the better Juneau’s doing, the more lawyers and accountants are hired, Bornstein said. This industry saw a 4 percent increase in jobs in 2012, according to the report.

Chamber of Commerce CEO Cathie Roemmich said she was pleased with the report’s findings, especially those concerning age demographics. Juneau’s population reached an all-time high in 2012 of almost 33,000. Of that, the largest percentages are in the 50- to 59-year-old and 40- to 49-year-old age ranges. But the 30- to 39-year-old age range is in third place, and growing.

“I was thrilled to see that our younger people’s demographics are increasing,” she said.

More local health care specialists would allow older people to live comfortably in Juneau, she said.

“If we can continue to have our economy go up like that, maybe we won’t lose our retired people,” Roemmich said.

The 120 new housing permits issued so far in 2013 are also exciting, Roemmich said. As always, housing availability is an issue in Juneau, but this year’s new permits are the most the city’s seen in a decade, Bornstein said.

“I’d like to see it continue at that pace,” Roemmich said.

Projections are positive for 2013, JEDC Executive Director Brian Holst said. Seafood and tourism are two industries with good outlooks for the coming year, and they’re also the ones that bring in outside cash to Juneau’s economy, he said.

“2013 is shaping up to be one of the strongest years for seafood in the state,” Holst said.

Cruise ship visitor estimates are near 1 million people for 2013, up from 2012’s 937,000, showing steady recovery from a dip that spanned 2010 and 2011. Across the nation, more and more people have extra money to spend on trips, and are spending it here, Holst said.

“Our tourism being up is an indicator of strength in the national economy,” he said.

The entire report can be found online at www.jedc.org/economic-indicators.

• Contact reporter Katie Moritz at 523-2294 or at katherine.moritz@juneauempire.com. Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.

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