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Unemployment rate continues steady, but slow, progress

Posted: April 21, 2012 - 11:06pm

Alaska’s unemployment rates in March were essentially unchanged from February, but held to their long-term improvement trend.

Alaska’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in March was 7.1 percent, continuing slow, steady improvement as the U.S. economy improves as well.

In Juneau, the non-seasonally adjusted rate in March was 5.4 percent, unchanged from February and better than last March’s 5.9 percent. The non-seasonally adjusted statewide number was 8 percent in March.

Juneau’s rate was second lowest in the state, with only the Aleutians West Census Area, at 4.9 percent, lowest in the state. That area is at the height of seafood processing season.

The highest unemployment rate in the state is right by Juneau, with the Hoonah-Angoon Census Area hitting 25.8 percent.

Some regions of the state have high unemployment before seasonal fishing or tourism industries kick in, with Aleutians West, Denali and Skagway at various times of the year contending for both highest and lowest rates in the state.

The Southeast communities in the Hoonah-Angoon Census Area don’t seem to see that benefit, said Neal Fried, state labor economist.

“Hoonah-Angoon has high year round unemployment, and last year its rate never fell below double digits,” he said.

Other areas in similar circumstances are the Wade Hampton Census Area in Western Alaska, as well as Nome, Bethel, Yukon-Koyukuk Census Areas, and the Northwest Arctic Borough.

The state’s biggest cities, Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau, all have lower unemployment rates than the state average, although they rarely have the lowest rates in the state.

“None of their annual rates reached double digits in 2011, and they rarely climb that high in any part of the year,” he said.

Other Southeast rates were all higher than Juneau, with Sitka at 6.8 percent, Ketchikan at 8.4 percent, Wrangell at 11.8 percent, Haines at 12 percent, Petersburg at 12.1 percent, Yakutat at 13.8 percent, Prince of Wales Island at 18.3 percent, and Skagway at 23.6 percent.

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

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