ANCHORAGE - Employment is booming in the North Slope oil fields, according to a state labor economist.
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Projected employment is expected to reach 11,400 jobs this year - the highest number since oil production began at Prudhoe Bay and other North Slope fields in the mid-1970s, economist Neal Fried said. Last year, there were 10,200 jobs, he said Wednesday in Anchorage at the Resource Development Council's annual conference.
The vast majority of the state's oil comes from the North Slope. Alaska's other oil and gas province, Cook Inlet, is a smaller and older producer.
The projected jobs this year represent about 3 percent of total Alaska employment, Fried said.
The jobs represent workers employed directly by oil companies such as BP and ConocoPhillips, as well as workers for oil-field contractors such as drilling firms.
Oil production in Alaska has been in a long, slow decline for years. The employment jump is partly due to last year's Prudhoe Bay pipeline corrosion problems, including oil leaks and an effort to inspect and replace old pipes, Fried said.
But it began well before the corrosion crisis.
"It really began at the end of 2005," Fried said.
Alaska oil has fetched record prices of more than $90 a barrel this year, and that's helped spark more oil-field projects and hiring, he said.