Seasonal jobs are expected to boost employment

DOT estimates that its 143 projects will result in some 12,000 direct, indirect jobs

Posted: Monday, April 27, 2009

That unemployment rate, up six-tenths of a percent since February, has been on a continuous upward trend since bottoming out at 6 percent in 2007, labor officials said.

Regular claims for unemployment insurance climbed to 98,788 in March, up significantly from the year-ago level of 75,982. Initial claims for unemployment insurance were also up substantially in March.

Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities officials estimate that their 143 projects - more than $1.2 billion in highways, aviation and transit infrastructure projects - will result in some 12,000 direct and indirect jobs, with associated wages and business growth statewide.

State labor officials have scheduled career fairs in Fairbanks, Palmer, Emmonak, Shaktoolik, Gambell, St. Michael and Chevak in late April and early May, and planned to participate in others.

A seafood industry job fair was slated April 23 in Anchorage and a teacher placement exposition April 17-18 in Anchorage.

Labor department staff also were conducting outreach visits at Savoonga, Shishmaref, Stebbins, Gambell and St. Michael from the end of April through late May.

Labor officials said that despite the higher unemployment numbers, Alaska continues to be one of few states that hasn't yet seen significant job losses during the current national recession. March employment estimates showed over-the-year growth of 2,100 jobs, or 0.7 percent. The national numbers showed a decline of 4.9 million jobs over that same period, a drop of 3.6 percent.

Through February, the most recent month for which data from all states is available, the only states besides Alaska showing year-over-year employment growth were Louisiana, North Dakota and Wyoming. Employment also rose in the District of Columbia.

Those states are like Alaska in that their economies rely heavily on the oil and gas industry, which grew both nationally and in Alaska through much of 2008, even as other industries started piling up losses.

But state labor economist Dan Robinson said the total number of Alaska oil and gas jobs hasn't changed much since last summer, and that overall job growth for the state is shrinking. Both signal a weakening economy, Robinson said.

Many Alaska have already been affected by the national recession, through the stock market, housing prices or a slowdown in business, he said. Taken together, the latest economic numbers show that the state as a whole is also feeling the pinch, he said.

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