Meilani Schijvens, owner and Director of Rain Coast Data, gives her Southeast by the Numbers report to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce during its weekly luncheon at the Moose Lodge on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Meilani Schijvens, owner and Director of Rain Coast Data, gives her Southeast by the Numbers report to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce during its weekly luncheon at the Moose Lodge on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Economic outlook for Southeast a mixed bag

Things have remained flat over the past year

It’s a time of uncertainty for the economy of Southeast Alaska, but there’s nothing to be disappointed about, according to Meilani Schijvens, executive director of South Cost Data.

But she ended that statement with a qualifier.

“Nothing to be disappointed about … yet,” she said in an interview with the Empire following her presentation at this week’s Juneau Chamber of Commerce Luncheon.

[Check out the Empire’s live coverage of the event]

Schijvens presented a wealth of detailed information on the economy of Southeast Alaska, compiled for the “Southeast By the Numbers” report from Southeast Conference.

Southeast Conference is a regional economic development organization which promotes economic activities in Southeast Alaska. Its executive director, Robert Venables, introduced Schijvens at the Luncheon. The By the Numbers report is released annually.

“The region’s complex economic framework is thriving in some segments, while struggling in others,” the report says. Record numbers of visitors are coming to Southeast and spending lots of money, but other parts of the region’s economy aren’t doing as well.

[Public gets a look at Kensington mine expansion]

The economy of Southeast Alaska is flat in a number of sectors, Schijvens said. Government jobs — federal, state and local — have all seen declines but the private sector has seen growth both in the health care and tourism industries, according to the report.

Southeast Conference’s data says that more than 800 state government jobs have been lost in Southeast Alaska the past seven years but almost 500 jobs have been added in health care in the past four years. The tourism industry added over 2,000 jobs in the past seven years and the Conference projects that in 2020 the roughly million-and-a-half visitors to Southeast Alaska will spend roughly $800 million.

But the loss of government jobs was a particular drag on the region’s economy, especially Juneau.

“So we’re adding jobs that are lower pay and they don’t have those benefits that come with the state type of job,” Schijvens said. “It’s hard to know right now where we’re headed with the state economy.”

The greatest number of jobs was added in the tourism industry, and Schijvens says that average annual earnings for tourism jobs was going up.

“But that also has to do with the number of hours,” she said. “So people are getting paid better in the visitor industry because they’re working more hours.”

[Alaska Attorney General says longstanding hiring law is unconstitutional]

After tourism, the health care industry added the most jobs, but competition for health care workers is steep across the nation so employers have to offer generous compensation to bring workers here. That in turn raises the cost of health care.

Keeping workers in Southeast is also a problem. Schijvens said that the top two factors that drew people to the region were pay and recreation, people seem to like the local environment. But the top two reasons people cited for leaving the region were cost of living and lack of child care.

There are some areas of growth, “some areas to be excited about,” Schijvens said. The construction industry was looking at a number of projects, many of which are tied to the tourism industry. But uncertainty about state funding will be a problem for Southeast due to its dependence on government jobs, she said.


• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or psegall@juneauempire.com.


More in News

The Fairweather pulls up to the Auke Bay Terminal in June 2014. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
State accepts bids for 2 fast ferries that faced struggles

The state Department of Transportation issued a public notice of the bidding process Thursday.

This is a police car.  It has always been a police car.
Police calls for Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020

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

Artist Rob Mullen stands on Long Trail, the country’s oldest long distance trail, in Manchester, Vt., on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. Mullen was nearing the end of his 272-mile month-long hike down the length of Vermont, painting along the way. (AP Photo/Lisa Rathke)
Artist hikes nation’s oldest long-distance trail, painting along the way

He had planned to paddle in the Northwest territories of Canada. But then the pandemic hit.

The Juneau Police Department Community Service Officer waits as a vehicle is pulled out of the ditch at the intersection of Egan and Yandukin Drives near Fred Meyer on Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. The Department of Transportation and Public Facilities has announced five proposed alternatives to better manage traffic at the intersection. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)
DOT presents 5 options for Fred Meyer intersection

Extensions? Traffic signals? Both?

Gov. Mike Dunleavy gives his State of the State address before a joint session of the Alaska Legislature on Monday, Jan. 27, 2020. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Judge: Alaska governor used veto power to punish courts

A judge said Dunleavy’s vetoes violate the separation of powers doctrine.

Juneau Police Department Chief Ed Mercer, left, and Deputy Chief David Campbell, right, pose with Sgt. Nick Garza, center, for Garza's promotion to sergeant on Oct. 14, 2020. (Courtesy photo / JPD)
JPD officer promoted to sergeant

He has been with JPD since 2009.

U.S.Attorney General William Barr speaks during a roundtable discussion on Operation Legend, a federal program to help cities combat violent crime, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020, in St. Louis. Barr also spoke via recorded message at the annual Alaska Federation of Natives Convention. (AP Photo / Jeff Roberson)
Alaska Natives, law enforcement affirm partnership against public safety crisis

Partnerships, tribal authority, and reliable funding cam help strangle this crisis.

Most Read