State unemployment rate edging closer to nation's

Posted: Sunday, January 23, 2011

Unemployment rates in Alaska and Juneau rose slightly in December, even as the U.S. rate underwent a big decline.

The unemployment rate in Juneau was 5.8 percent in the month, up from 5.7 percent in November. Statewide, the rate was 8.1 percent in December, up from 7.8 percent in November.

Those numbers are not seasonally adjusted, and state economists noted that many of the communities with the highest unemployment rates, such as Skagway and the Hoonah-Angoon area, tend to have seasonal economies such as fishing and tourism.

The statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate climbed one-tenth of a percent as well, however. For about two years Alaska has had an unemployment rate lower than the national average, in contrast to the historical trend.

That gap appears to be closing, however.

Still, Juneau, Alaska and the nation are doing markedly better than they were doing a year ago December. Juneau’s rate then was up to 6.5 percent.

The lowest unemployment rate in the state belonged to the North Slope Borough, with its heavy concentration of oil industry workers. At 5.0 percent, it’s rate was the only unemployment rate lower than Juneau.

Other Southeast rates included Sitka at 7.4 percent, Ketchikan at 8.8 percent, Wrangell-Petersburg at 11.9 percent, Haines at 12.1 percent, Yakutat at 14.1 percent, Prince of Wales at 16.2 percent, Hoonah-Angoon at 21.4 percent and Skagway at 27.8 percent.

During the last year, the state is estimated to have gained about 1,000 jobs, state economists said. Gains in health care, business and professional services and government more than made up for losses in construction and trade, transportation and utilities. However, Alaska’s population grew to more than 710,000 people in 2010 from an estimate of more than 698,000 in 2009 according to the U.S. Census Bureau, though it is unclear how much of that growth is job-seeking population.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or

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