State economists see hope in unemployment rate

Posted: Friday, March 12, 2010

Unemployment rates in Alaska and Juneau rose in January on a non-seasonally adjusted basis, according to Department of Labor and Workforce Development data released Thursday.

Juneau's unemployment rate rose to 7.3 percent in January, compared to 6.5 percent in both December 2009 and January 2009.

Alaska's unemployment rate rose to 9.6 percent in January, up from 8.2 percent in December 2009 and 8.8 percent in January 2009.

The increase was not unexpected for a January.

Economist Neal Fried with the department's Research and Analysis Division called it "not an altogether unusual occurrence during the winter months."

The non-seasonally adjusted numbers are preliminary for January, and the numbers for earlier dates have been revised from what was announced at the time.

Alaska continued to compare well to national seasonally adjusted numbers that also were released Thursday.

Alaska's seasonally adjusted rate dropped three-tenths of a percent to 8.5 percent. The national rate also dropped, from 10 percent to 9.7 percent.

State unemployment officials said they were still unwilling to say how significant the apparent change might be.

"It is still too early to tell if this monthly improvement is developing into a more permanent trend," Fried said.

An improving national economy could help reduce Alaska's unemployment rate, as economists believe the rate has been driven up by Alaskans who lost jobs and have been unable to find new jobs elsewhere.

"If the national employment picture continues to improve, it should eventually take some pressure off Alaska's jobless picture," Fried said.

Other Southeast unemployment rates were higher than Juneau, with Sitka at 8.7 percent, Ketchikan Gateway Borough at 10.9 percent, Haines Borough at 14.6 percent, Wrangel-Petersburg at 15.7 percent, Yakutat Borough at 16.3 percent, Prince of Wales Island at 20.5 percent, Skagway at 12.16 percent, and Hoonah-Angoon at 28.3 percent.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 586-4816 or

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