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State employment picture keeps improving

State extends more than three years of lower unemployment rates than US average

Posted: March 13, 2012 - 11:01pm

Alaska’s economy continued improving in January along with the national economy, as the state extended three years of having a lower unemployment rate than the nation’s.

“If current trends continue, 2012 would represent the third straight year of declining rates for both the U.S. and Alaska,” said Neal Fried, state economist.

Alaska’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in January was 7.2 percent, down a bit from December, and down from 7.8 percent, according to unemployment data from the Department of Labor & Workforce Development’s Research and Analysis Section released Tuesday.

Juneau’s non-seasonally adjusted rate in January was 5.4 percent, among the lowest in the state. While Juneau had a typical seasonal unemployment increase from December’s 5.0 percent, it was down from the previous January’s 6.1 percent.

The lowest rate in the state was 5.1 percent for the North Slope Borough, the only community with a rate lower than Juneau. Anchorage’s 6.0 percent was the closest to Juneau’s.

Notable in the January numbers was Southeast being the location for three of the four highest unemployment rates in the state.

Skagway’s tourism-dependent economy, which last year was the lowest in the state during the summer, had an unemployment rate of 28.4 percent, highest in the state.

Fried called Skagway “an extreme example of seasonality.”

Southeast’s Hoonah-Angoon Census Area was second highest at 26.3 percent in January, followed by the Denali Borough at 22.2 percent in January and Prince of Wales Island at 19.4 percent.

Other Southeast rates were Haines at 12.5 percent, Ketchikan at 9.0 percent, Petersburg at 14.3 percent, Sitka at 7.0 percent, Wrangell at 13.1 percent and Yakutat at 14.3 percent.

Every Southeast community was below its year-ago number except Wrangell. Southeast’s average January unemployment rate was 8.7 percent, well below its year-ago average of 9.6 percent.

The statewide non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for the state was 8.1 percent, down from 8.8 percent the previous year.

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

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