Jobless rate climbing in Juneau, around the state

Seasonal job booms are getting smaller

Posted: Sunday, June 21, 2009

Alaska's unemployment rate rose in May to 8.4 percent, up from 7.9 percent the previous month, according to the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The numbers are seasonally adjusted.

Despite increasing, Alaska is still below the national average of 9.4 percent and well below West Coast states such as California at 11.5 percent and Oregon at 12.4 percent, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The strength in Alaska's economy ranged across job categories, with every sector either holding steady or gaining jobs.

That's typical for this time of year, however, seasonal increases in recent years are becoming smaller than they once were, said Neal Fried, state Department of Labor economist.

"The state's very seasonal job market continued to build toward the peak employment months of July and August," he said.

Industries gaining jobs included leisure and hospitality, which includes much of the state's tourism economy.

The state's 13,500 new jobs over the last month included 2,400 in restaurants and bars and 1,700 in hotels and motels. Trade, transportation and utilities also had an increase of 3,500 jobs.

Two of the most important sectors, government and oil and gas, both saw no change.

Juneau continued to do better than most of the state, even as the local unemployment rate climbed.

Unadjusted local unemployment rates around the state showed Juneau with a rate of 5.8 percent in May, compared to a 4.3 percent in May 2008.

Despite the relatively big annual jump in Juneau's unemployment rate, it remains well below most other communities in the state and all other Southeast communities for which rates are calculated.

Neighboring Southeast community unemployment rates range from a low of 6.6 percent in Sitka to Wrangell-Petersburg's 11.4 percent and Prince of Wales Island's 15.4 percent.

The most dramatic monthly change in the state came in the Skagway-Hoonah-Angoon communities, where the unemployment rate dropped 10 percentage points.

Skagway is one of Alaska's most tourism dependent towns, while Hoonah with its new Icy Strait Point development is joining their ranks. The region also has a high proportion of commercial and sport fishing jobs.

In April, that census area had an unemployment rate of 19.5 percent, but in May it dropped to 9.5 percent.

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



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