State projects 8,500 new jobs in next two years

State predicts 850 new jobs in Southeast

Posted: Friday, May 05, 2000

ANCHORAGE - About 8,500 new jobs will be created in Alaska over the next two years, more than three-quarters of them in Anchorage and Fairbanks, according to a forecast by the state Department of Labor.

Some 850 new jobs will be created in Southeast Alaska, according to the forecast.

The vast majority of the jobs will be in the services sector, with gains also expected in wholesale and retail trade, transportation and construction.

Statewide, job losses are anticipated in federal government employment, seafood processing, timber and the high-paying oil industry. In Southeast, increases in construction and services will be offset by losses in the timber and government sectors, department officials said.

``Services are the big growth engine, but they have been for a long time,'' said Neal Fried, a state labor economist in Anchorage.

Services include health care, computer services, business support, law firms, tourism and more. Statewide 5,500 of the 8,500 new jobs are expected to show up in this category.

Accompanying the job growth will be a relatively tight labor market, according to Fried. The shortage of available workers in the state is largely because demand for labor is so strong this year in the Lower 48.

That could translate to higher wages for local workers.

``It should be a positive (for workers),'' Fried said. ``How big, I don't know.''

The forecast was issued after Phillips Petroleum Co.'s $7 billion purchase of Arco Alaska Inc.'s assets, but before job cuts were announced.

John Boucher, a state labor economist in Juneau, said the forecast included the oilfield changes.

``We felt consolidation was going to happen under just about any scenario,'' Boucher said.

The department is projecting a loss of about 200 oil-industry jobs over the two years in Anchorage, where Phillips and BP Amoco have said most of their cuts would be focused. Job losses in the industry would continue a decline under way for several years.

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