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Alaska employment back to pre-recession numbers

Posted: January 5, 2014 - 1:08am

The Parnell administration remains committed to growing opportunity for Alaskans. As we look ahead to 2014, our economists forecast Alaska adding 1,500 jobs — 2,400 new private sector jobs, diminished some by a decline of 900 government jobs.

Alaska added more than 1,500 jobs through the first half of 2013, and Alaska is one of just a handful of states that has recovered all of the jobs lost during the recent recession. Alaska’s unemployment rate has been below the national rate for a record 61 consecutive months as of November.

A recent Washington Post article claims that Alaska is the only state that lost jobs in 2013 — a claim that warrants a clarification with facts. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers used in the article are suspect because they are preliminary and have been subject to very large revisions in recent years.

For example, numbers reported from that same data set in July of last year showed a loss of 3,400 jobs, but revised final numbers showed a gain of 4,300 jobs. Similarly, November 2012 numbers showed growth of just 300 jobs, but those numbers were later revised to show growth of 3,100 jobs.

State economists, who work closely with the Bureau of Labor Statistics to produce jobs numbers and unemployment rates for Alaska, estimate that when the revisions are complete, Alaska’s job numbers will be in the plus column – and 2013 will be the state’s fourth straight year of job growth since the 2009 economic downturn.

Additionally, thanks to legislation championed by Gov. Sean Parnell, Alaskans will see a 22 percent reduction in unemployment insurance tax rates – a savings of $89 million in 2014. Unlike Alaska, 36 states have borrowed from the federal government to keep their unemployment trust funds solvent, and about a dozen continue to do so.

Also, because of Alaska’s low unemployment rate, our state is no longer classified as a single zone of underemployment for public construction jobs. The critical take-away on this reclassification is that it was based on the fact that Alaska has a healthy economy, and the Parnell administration continues to strongly support and encourage Alaska hire throughout the state.

Alaska’s future is especially bright with the passage of the 2013 More Alaska Production Act. Already we’re seeing new opportunities, as billions of dollars in new investment on the North Slope are creating new jobs and increasing economic activity. We expect more good news to follow, as well as continued growth in Alaska’s oil and gas industry.

For much more detailed information on our 2014 jobs outlook, look for the January 2014 issue of Alaska Economic Trends online at Labor.Alaska.Gov.

• Dianne Blumer is commissioner of the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

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