Employment shows signs of improvement

Posted: Monday, May 24, 2010

Juneau's unemployment rate is falling as summer approaches, down to 6.1 percent in April, according to the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. That's down from 7 percent in March, but remains slightly above the 5.8 percent in April of 2009.

Statewide, the unemployment rate dropped from 9.5 percent in March to 8.5 percent in April, though the statewide rate was also above April of last years, which was 7.8 percent.

The numbers are not seasonally adjusted, and don't take into account the typical growth in jobs as summer tourism, fishing and construction seasons begin.

Seasonally adjusted numbers showed Alaska's unemployment rate edging down, decreasing from 8.5 percent in March to 8.4 percent in April, but remaining above April 2009's 7.7 percent.

Labor economist Neil Fried called the slight improvement "a positive sign for the state's job market."

The national unemployment rate increased over the month, but employment has been rising since January as more people seek work in the improving economy.

"That could eventually help take some pressure off Alaska's labor market if it translates into fewer job seekers heading north looking for work," Fried said.

Economists said that while the state's economy remained relatively strong over the last year, the unemployment rate was pushed up when Alaskans who lost jobs were unable to find work elsewhere because of the recession and remained in the state.

Despite Alaska's higher year-to-year unemployment rate, the state actually has about 3,100 more people employed than last year at this time.

Juneau's unemployment rate remained the lowest in Southeast in April at 6.1 percent. Sitka was at 6.4 percent, Ketchikan was 8.6 percent, Wrangell was 10.7 percent, Yakutat was 11.1 percent, Haines was 11.4 percent, Prince of Wales Island was at 15.9 percent, Skagway was at 18.8 percent and the Hoonah-Angoon Census area was at 20.2.

Fairbanks at 7.4 percent and Anchorage at 7.7 percent both remained below the statewide non-seasonally adjusted rate of 8.5 percent. The lowest unemployment rate in the state was the North Slope Borough at 5.1 percent.

Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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