Juneau, state unemployment rates move higher

Posted: Sunday, November 21, 2010

The unemployment rate in Alaska and Juneau edged up a bit last month, but state economists say that is to be expected with the wind-down of the summer tourist and construction seasons.

Juneau's unemployment rate was 5.8 percent in October, up from 5.2 percent in September, while the state's unemployment rate went to 7.6 percent from 7.3 percent for the same periods. Those numbers are not seasonally adjusted.

Both the city's and the state's unemployment rates are improvements from October of 2009 as the city's rate was 6.2 percent then, while the state's was 8 percent.

State economist Neil Fried said the increase in unemployment this time of year is to be expected.

"This is typical in October, when Alaska's labor market enters its winter slump. Fishing declines, the visitor industry is nearly shuttered and the construction industry buttons down for mostly indoor work," he said.

The state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate edged up a bit, while the nation's remained unchanged, but Fried warned against drawing conclusions from a single month-to-month change.

October's unemployment numbers marked two full years during which Alaska's unemployment rate was below the national rate, previously an unusual occurrence.

Total employment in Alaska has held relatively steady over the last year, despite the job losses down south.

Other Southeast unemployment rates were not as good as Juneau's, as many of the key regional industries are now in their downtimes. Sitka was at 6.2 percent, and Ketchikan was 7.5 percent, Haines was 8.1 percent, Yakutat was 8.4 percent, Wrangell-Petersburg was 9.4 percent, Prince of Wales Island was 13.1 percent and Hoonah-Angoon was 13.8 percent.

Highest in Southeast, and the state, was Skagway, where tourism is the dominant industry. It had an unemployment rate of 20.4 percent.

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

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