Dan Robinson, chief of research and analysis for the Department of Labor & Workforce Development, gives a 2019 Alaska Job Forecast and Outlook presentation at the Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Dan Robinson, chief of research and analysis for the Department of Labor & Workforce Development, gives a 2019 Alaska Job Forecast and Outlook presentation at the Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Alaska’s job market projected to rebound in 2019

Oil, gas, construction, tourism expected to lead charge

Correction: An earlier version of this article erroneously stated that Alaska’s population has declined by 35,000 people over the past six years. In the past six years, 35,000 fewer people have migrated to Alaska than people have migrated out, which is different from an overall population drop. The article has been changed to reflect that.

Alaska has lost jobs for 39 straight months, but that streak could come to an end this year.

Dan Robinson, the chief of research and analysis for the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, said the department expects “modest growth” this year. After statewide job losses of 1.6 percent, 1.3 percent and 0.7 percent in 2016, 2017 and 2018, respectively, the Department of Labor forecasts the number of jobs will increase by about 0.4 percent in 2019, according to Robinson’s presentation.

Oil and gas jobs have been hit the hardest during the recession — which started in October 2015 — Robinson said. During that stretch, that sector has lost 4,900 jobs, according to his presentation.

After such a dramatic downturn, Robinson said after the presentation, the oil and gas industry is due for a rebound.

“Oil and gas moves less predictably than other sectors,” Robinson said, “but generally after a big loss you’re a little more likely to resume growth, and that’s some of what we’re seeing.”

Construction jobs are expected to rise the most — 5.8 percent — according to the Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s Alaska Economic Trends publication.

Fairbanks is poised for a boost, as two squadrons of F-35 fighter jets are going to be based there. According to a report from KUAC in Fairbanks, the placement of jets in Fairbanks is expected to bring about 5,000 people there.

In reference to Southeast in particular, Robinson said the main area of growth will be from tourism.

“Right now, nationally especially, it’s a strong economy,” Robinson said. “Interest in Alaska is high. We’ve got all those new ships coming on, so tourism’s going to be the biggest plus for Southeast.”

[Number of cruise visitors expected to leap in 2019]

State jobs are still projected to decrease in Southeast, according to numbers from Rain Coast Data presented in November. Jobs and earnings increased in Southeast in 2017, but in Juneau there were decreases of 200 jobs (1.1 percent), $9 million in earnings (1 percent), and 450 people (1.4 percent), according to Rain Coast Data and Southeast Conference.

Though it started off with good news, the majority of Robinson’s presentation was looking at the dismal few years for Alaska’s job market and population.

Alaska’s recession has lasted longer than most, Robinson said. Ninety-three percent of state recessions last under three years, he said, and Alaska just passed the three-year mark. While other oil-producing states (such as Wyoming and North Dakota) have suffered similar downturns, they have rebounded while Alaska’s recession has lingered. Alaska is even more dependent on oil because unlike those other states, Robinson said, Alaska has historically funded its state government with oil revenues. The state is in the process of changing how it’s funding state government in an attempt to become less reliant on oil.

In the past six years, 35,000 fewer people have migrated to Alaska than people have migrated out, according to Robinson’s presentation. This was done through measuring in-migration versus out-migration. Though Alaska’s recession in the 1980s was much worse, Robinson says it’s notable that this loss has happened six years in a row. That’s never happened in Alaska as long as records have been kept, he said.

Robinson said there hasn’t been a huge increase in people leaving the state, but the number of people moving to the state has decreased in recent years. Whatever the cause, fewer people is a bad indicator for a state’s job market, he said.

“Population loss and economic vitality rarely go hand-in-hand,” Robinson said.

• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.

More in News

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Aurora forecast for the week of April 15

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

Juneau School District administrators and board members review the updated budget for the current fiscal year during a Board of Education meeting Tuesday night at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
The Juneau School District had a $9.5M projected deficit this year. It’s now a $633,185 surplus. How is that possible?

Resignation of 34 employees since January, health insurance savings among reasons, officials say.

Rep. Sara Hannan (right) offers an overview of this year’s legislative session to date as Rep. Andi Story and Sen. Jesse Kiehl listen during a town hall by Juneau’s delegation on Thursday evening at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Multitude of education issues, budget, PFD among top areas of focus at legislative town hall

Juneau’s three Democratic lawmakers reassert support of more school funding, ensuring LGBTQ+ rights.

Rosemary Ahtuangaruak, mayor of the Inupiaq village of Nuiqsut, at the area where a road to the Willow project will be built in the North Slope of Alaska, March 23, 2023. The Interior Department said it will not permit construction of a 211-mile road through the park, which a mining company wanted for access to copper deposits. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)
Biden shields millions of acres of Alaskan wilderness from drilling and mining

The Biden administration expanded federal protections across millions of acres of Alaskan… Continue reading

Allison Gornik plays the lead role of Alice during a rehearsal Saturday of Juneau Dance Theatre’s production of “Alice in Wonderland,” which will be staged at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé for three days starting Friday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
An ‘Alice in Wonderland’ that requires quick thinking on and off your feet

Ballet that Juneau Dance Theatre calls its most elaborate production ever opens Friday at JDHS.

Caribou cross through Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve in their 2012 spring migration. A 211-mile industrial road that the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority wants to build would pass through Gates of the Arctic and other areas used by the Western Arctic Caribou Herd, one of the largest in North America. Supporters, including many Alaska political leaders, say the road would provide important economic benefits. Opponents say it would have unacceptable effects on the caribou. (Photo by Zak Richter/National Park Service)
Alaska’s U.S. senators say pending decisions on Ambler road and NPR-A are illegal

Expected decisions by Biden administration oppose mining road, support more North Slope protections.

Rep. Sarah Vance, R-Homer, speaks on the floor of the Alaska House of Representatives on Wednesday, March 13. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska House members propose constitutional amendment to allow public money for private schools

After a court ruling that overturned a key part of Alaska’s education… Continue reading

Danielle Brubaker shops for homeschool materials at the IDEA Homeschool Curriculum Fair in Anchorage on Thursday. A court ruling struck down the part of Alaska law that allows correspondence school families to receive money for such purchases. (Claire Stremple/Alaska Beacon)
Lawmakers to wait on Alaska Supreme Court as families reel in wake of correspondence ruling

Cash allotments are ‘make or break’ for some families, others plan to limit spending.

Most Read