Wal-Mart could take over as state's No. 1 employer

New stores in Juneau, Anchorage could put retailer ahead of Providence Health

Posted: Friday, August 05, 2005

Wal-Mart may be the state's largest private employer in a few years, after it builds new stores, according to a study by the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

The study, appearing in the August edition of the department's magazine, Alaska Economic Trends, revealed the state's 100 largest employers in the private sector for 2004.

Providence Health System holds the top spot with 3,518 employees. But if Wal Mart/Sam's Club adds two planned Super Centers in the Anchorage area and a store in Juneau, the retail outlet could be a "contender," according to the article.

"They don't have that far to go before they reach the top," said Neal Fried, a department economist. But it could be several years before the stores are built, he added.

Wal-Mart was listed in third place with 2,725 employees. Fried said the new stores could add another 1,000 employees.

Top 10 private employers

  Avg. annual employment by

  Company: 2004 2003

1. Providence 3,518 3,556

2. Safeway/Carrs 3,107 3,135

3. Wal-Mart 2,725 2,443

4. Fred Meyer 2,597 2,341

5. Alaska Airlines 1,638 1,726

6. Trident Seafoods 1,612 N/A

7. Yukon-Kukokswim 1,346 1,217Health Corp.

8. BP Exploration 1,337 1,417

9. Banner Health 1,287 1,243

10. GCI 1,225 990

SOURCE: Alaska Dept. of Labor and Workforce Development

From 2003 to 2004, Wal-Mart's Alaska work force grew 12 percent, or 282 employees. Overall, companies saw an average of less than 2 percent growth.

In 1994, Wal-Mart was not listed in the top 10.

In second place was Safeway Stores/Carrs, with 3,107 workers. The company has been static over the years in employment, Fried said.

nonprofit organizations now make up about a quarter of the state's top private employers, whereas only 16 were listed five years ago. That growth also corresponds with the strong presence of the health care industry, as many nonprofits provide those types of services.

"Nonprofits play a big role in Alaska, more so than other states," Fried said.

Many serve Alaska Natives, such as the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. and the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, with 1,346 and 754 employees, respectively.

The privatization of government work involving health care and social services contributes to that growth, Fried said. Nonprofits also benefit from an increase in federal funding.

Hospitals must fill shifts for 24-hour service, Fried said.

Greens Creek Mine entered the list for the first time, with 260 employees. The mine strengthened the presence of hard-rock mining companies to three on the list, the others being the Cominco Alaska Red Dog mine and the Fairbanks Gold Mining Co., also known as Fort Knox.

Greens Creek Mine was the only Juneau-headquartered company that made the list. The mine's human resources staffer, Ron Plantz, said employment has been rising steadily in recent years.

Employment has increased in the state overall, and has continued over 17 years, Fried said.

The construction of a natural gas pipeline could invite a few construction companies into the state's largest-employers list, Fried said. Their hired help also would create jobs in other industries because they would use various other services, he added.

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