Juneau unemployment rate inches down

Posted: Monday, April 19, 2010

Juneau's unemployment rate is inching down, declining from 7.3 percent in February to 7.1 percent last month.

The statewide unemployment rate also declined slightly, and both the local and statewide rates would have been lower if not for an increased number of people newly looking for work, according to state unemployment data released last week by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Those numbers are not seasonally adjusted.

There also was a hint of good news for the state's future, with total unemployment claims on the decline last month, said Neal Fried, an economist with the department.

"More months of data will be necessary to see if that's a permanent trend or monthly aberration," he said.

Alaska's unemployment numbers typically decline with the approach of summer, officials say.

Juneau continued in March to have the lowest unemployment rate in Southeast, and one of the lowest in the state. Sitka was at 7.9 percent; Ketchikan was 10.4 percent; Wrangell-Petersburg was 13.5 percent; Haines was 14.5 percent; Yakutat was 15.5 percent; Prince of Wales was 19.5 percent; Hoonah-Angoon was 15.2 percent.

Highest in Southeast, and second highest in the state, was Skagway at 26.2 percent. The state's highest unemployment rate was in the Denali Borough at 28.9 percent.

Those two tourism-dependent communities typically have high unemployment rates in the off-season.

"There's little doubt those rates will come down as the year progresses and the visitor season kicks into high gear," Fried said.

The lowest unemployment rate in the state was in the Aleutians West Census Area, where the groundfish season was in high gear in the communities of Sand Point and King Cove.

The state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased by a tenth of a percent to 8.6 percent, while the nation's seasonally adjusted rate held even at 9.7 percent.

Statewide, Alaska had about 2,000 more people working in March than in February, and about 4,000 more than in March of 2009. The unemployment rate was still higher than a year ago because there were more people in the state looking for work.

State economists say high unemployment rates outside Alaska may be driving up the state's unemployment rate, because people who lose jobs in Alaska cannot find jobs elsewhere, while other people may move to Alaska seeking work.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 586-4816 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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