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KENAI - Alaska's salmon industry saw more jobs disappear last year along the Gulf of Alaska, continuing a trend that has seen a 38-percent decline in seafood industry employment there over the past eight years.
While the salmon industry showed continued weakness, there were employment gains in other sectors, notably the public sector and in the leisure and hospitality industries in the Gulf Coast Region, which includes the Kenai Peninsula, the Kodiak Island Borough and the Valdez-Cordova area, according to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
The gains counterbalanced the losses, meaning that employment in the region remained nearly unchanged last year with only 150 jobs added, an increase of just one-half percent over 2001, according to a department publication.
The article showed that since 1994, some 1,300 fisheries jobs have disappeared, many of them from the Kenai Peninsula. Meanwhile, salmon fishermen have seen earnings decline and the worth of their assets lose value.
"Investments in fishing permits, boats and gear have fallen to a small fraction of their former values," said Brigitta Windisch-Cole, a department labor economist who wrote the article.
There was one bright spot for the peninsula. According to department figures, only Cook Inlet fishermen experienced an increase in the value of their harvest last year. Value rose 57 percent and harvest volume rose 84 percent, Windisch-Cole said.
Earnings for Kodiak fishermen fell 45 percent from 2001, and in Prince William Sound, harvest value fell 27 percent, she said.
Employment in the health care industry grew in 2002, attributable in part to growth in the aging population.
The visitor industry also grew in 2002, with worker numbers increasing in hotels, including at the Aspen Hotel that opened in Soldotna, Windisch-Cole said.
Likewise, the public sector added workers, she said. Gulf Region airports hired security personnel, resulting in a boost in federal employment. State government employment rose primarily through growth in university staff. Local government employment grew because of hiring at Central Peninsula General Hospital and South Peninsula Hospital and also more tribal employment, she said.