Departures from Alaska at highest point in 25 years

FAIRBANKS — More people left Alaska last year than they have in decades, with net migration out of the state at its highest point in in the past quarter-century.

A report released Friday by the Alaska Department of Labor shows that about 7,500 more people moved out of the state than arrived in fiscal year 2014. The last time net departures were higher was in 1988, when 15,710 people left during an in-state recession, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

The departures don’t appear to be caused by the state’s current financial problems because they came before oil prices dropped, Department of Labor economist Neal Fried said. “When those numbers were put together, we thought $100 oil was normal,” Fried said, referring to the per-barrel price.

The departures were measured between July 2013 and July 2014.

The migration likely has more to do with improving employment opportunities in the Lower 48, Fried said. People historically come to Alaska when the rest of the U.S. is struggling with unemployment, he said.

“That’s a pattern that’s probably repeated itself forever,” Fried said. “Even prior to statehood, you probably saw that.”

Alaska’s population has always been transient, state demographer Eddie Hunsinger said. About 5 to 7 percent of the population moves to and from the state each year.

“There are economic pushers and pullers, for sure,” Hunsinger said. “They certainly have an effect. But in any case, even if the economy is particularly bad in Alaska there will still be a lot of people moving to Alaska.”

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