The riverfront in Kotlik, a Yup’ik community of about 600 people, is seen in 2009. Kotlik, on the north end of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, is one of the communities in the Kusilvak Census Area. A new study published in the Lancet found that Alaska Natives in the Kusilvak Census Area have the nation’s highest rate of death from intentional self-harm or interpersonal violence. (Photo provided by the Alaska Division of Community and Regional Affairs)

The riverfront in Kotlik, a Yup’ik community of about 600 people, is seen in 2009. Kotlik, on the north end of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, is one of the communities in the Kusilvak Census Area. A new study published in the Lancet found that Alaska Natives in the Kusilvak Census Area have the nation’s highest rate of death from intentional self-harm or interpersonal violence. (Photo provided by the Alaska Division of Community and Regional Affairs)

Alaska construction employment statistics show uneven post-pandemic recovery, wage deflation

Employment in Alaska’s construction industry had not yet returned to pre-COVID-19 levels as of the end of 2022, even though the industry was damaged less during the pandemic than the state’s economy as a whole, according to a new report from the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

The Alaska construction industry lost 3.6% of its jobs in 2020, the first year of the pandemic, compared with the overall state job loss that year of 8%, said the report, published in the August edition of Alaska Economic Trends, the monthly magazine of the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s research division. By 2022, the industry had regained only about half of the jobs it had lost in the COVID-19 era, according to the article.

Construction-employment recovery has been uneven throughout the state, with Anchorage, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and Southeast Alaska back up to or even exceeding pre-pandemic levels but Fairbanks and the Interior lag, according to the article, written by economist Sara Teel.

Exactly why that is happening is yet to be fully understood, said Dan Robinson, research chief at the state labor department

In her Trends article, Teel – who has since taken a job outside of Alaska – pointed to the state’s shrinking population of working-age adults as a possible factor.

“While high numbers of job openings have been a national phenomenon in recent years, mainly because of demographic shifts, Alaska’s 10 years of net migration losses contributed to an even smaller worker pool for the construction industry,” her article said.

Those losses put Alaska out of step with most states, Robinson said. “Our working-age population decline is unusual,” he said.

But the construction-job picture is too complicated to be explained simply by Alaska’s smaller total workforce, he said. Construction employment recovery in Anchorage, Mat-Su and Southeast Alaska that is happening at the same time that employment is lagging in Interior Alaska indicates other possible factors, he said.

One might be competition from elsewhere.

Teel, in her article, said construction wages in Alaska have not kept pace with inflation. Wages in 2022 were about $4,000 a year higher than in 2019, but that increase would have to have been $10,000 to keep up with inflation, according to the article.

Ronson said less-attractive pay in Alaska is part of a pattern that the department is studying.

Alaska used to have a “wage premium” – higher wages for jobs throughout the state’s economy, Robinson said. “That’s mostly gone,” he said. Now Alaska wages are just slightly above the national average, he said.

Construction represents 7% of Alaska’s private-sector jobs, making it the fifth-largest employer by category, the article notes. Construction is also the second-highest paying sector, with an average annual wage of $85,079 in 2022. But that is far below the $155,072 average annual pay for those in the mining industry – a sector that, under the department’s definition, includes oil and gas jobs – the article pointed out.

The construction-employment picture includes signs of the Mat-Su region’s growing economic importance. Over half of the new single-family homes built in Alaska in 2022 were in Mat-Su, compared to 23% in Anchorage, Teel’s article said. Overall, the Mat-Su region in 2022 accounted for 31% of the Anchorage/Mat-Su construction jobs, up from 25% in 2019, the article said.

• Yereth Rosen came to Alaska in 1987 to work for the Anchorage Times. She has reported for Reuters, for the Alaska Dispatch News, for Arctic Today and for other organizations. She covers environmental issues, energy, climate change, natural resources, economic and business news, health, science and Arctic concerns. This story originally appeared at alaskabeacon.com. Alaska Beacon, an affiliate of States Newsroom, is an independent, nonpartisan news organization focused on connecting Alaskans to their state government.

More in News

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Aurora forecast for the week of Feb. 26

These forecasts are courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Saturday, March 2, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Friday, March 1, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

The Alaska Supreme Court is seen on Thursday, Feb. 8, in Juneau. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska Supreme Court decides key question: Who is an Alaskan?

An Alaskan is someone physically present in the state who intends to… Continue reading

Pink salmon are seen in an undated photo. (NOAA Fisheries photo)
New salmon study adds to evidence that pink salmon could be crowding out sockeye

A new analysis of nearly 25,000 fish scales offers more evidence that… Continue reading

Liana Wallace offers a water blessing during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Augustus G. Brown Swimming Pool on Friday following nearly a year of renovations. The pool is scheduled to reopen for public use on Tuesday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Ribbon-cutting for Augustus G. Brown Swimming Pool a blessing for longtime users after 11-month renovation

Infrastructure upgrades, new locker rooms and student tile art in lobby greet visitors at ceremony.

The Alaska State Capitol in Juneau is seen on Friday, Feb. 23. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska Legislature plans March 12 vote on Gov. Dunleavy’s executive orders

Order giving governor full control of Alaska Marine Highway Operations board among six scheduled.

Brenda Josephson, a Haines resident, testifies in favor of a bill setting statewide standards for municipal property assessors during a state Senate Community and Regional Affairs Committee hearing Thursday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Statewide standards for municipal property assessments sought in bill by Juneau lawmaker

Some residents say legislation doesn’t go far enough, want limits on annual valuation increases.

Most Read