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Alaska unemployment rate drops

Posted: Friday, July 16, 2010

Alaska's unemployment rate is falling, but Juneau's held steady in June even as hiring continued.

The state's seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate fell to 7.9 percent, the first time in more than a year it has been under 8 percent.

Throughout the state, summertime hiring resulted in thousands more workers being hired in seasonal jobs such as construction, tourism and seafood processing, according to the Department of Labor and Workforce Development's monthly unemployment report, issued Thursday.

Alaska has, for much of the last few years, been in the unusual situation of having a lower unemployment rate than the nation. In June, that gap actually widened as the state gained jobs faster than the nation.

The number of people employed in the state rose from 325,000 in May to 342,000 in June, outpacing the nation's slowly growing gain in jobs.

In June, the increase in employment showed up most dramatically in the decrease in the number of weeks of unemployment benefits claimed. In May 96,793 weeks of unemployment were claimed, compared to 63,362 in June, a 32.5 percent decrease.

Alaska also did better than the nation when the unemployment numbers were seasonally adjusted to take into account typical seasonal variations.

In June, Alaska's seasonally adjusted rate was 7.9 percent, down from 8.2 percent in May and 8 percent the previous June. The U.S. seasonally adjusted rate was 9.5 percent in June, down from 9.7 percent in May and unchanged from a year ago.

In June, seasonal tourism hiring gave Skagway the lowest unemployment rate in Southeast Alaska at 2.7 percent, dipping below Juneau's 5.8 percent for the first time this year.

Sitka was at 6.2 percent, while Ketchikan and Haines were both at 6.7 percent and the Wrangell-Petersburg Census Area and the Yakutat Borough were both at 8.8 percent. The Hoonah-Angoon Census area was at 10.9 percent, while Prince of Wales Island was highest in the region at 13.8 percent.

Statewide, the lowest unemployment rate went to the Bristol Bay Borough at 2.0 percent as fishing was in full swing and the hiring was in seafood processing. Next lowest was the Denali Borough at 4.0 percent, but there it was the visitor industry that drove the hiring.

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



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