Downtown Juneau and Douglas on Aug. 22, 2023. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire file photo)

Downtown Juneau and Douglas on Aug. 22, 2023. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire file photo)

Juneau’s cost of living 27.8% above US average, annual study finds

Report: Juneau, Anchorage, Fairbanks had highest food and healthcare costs of 265 cities in 2023.

This story has been updated to correct the name of the state department that published the report.

Juneau’s cost of living was nearly 28% higher than the national average in 2023 — a somewhat smaller gap than previous years — with healthcare at more than 50% higher and utilities at 40% higher the biggest differences, according to a report by the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Juneau, Anchorage and Fairbanks had the highest food and healthcare costs among 265 U.S. cities surveyed in 2023, according to the report published in the July issue of the department’s “Alaska Economic Trends” magazine. It also cites separate data to note Juneau has the state’s highest average single-family house price and mortgage payment in 2023 at $509,285 and $2,530, respectively.

“(Statewide) home prices increased rapidly in recent years, spurred by record low interest rates during the pandemic and limited availability, but have slowed as interest rates climbed,” the report states. “In 2023, the statewide average sale price for a single-family home rose about 3 percent after increasing almost 9 percent in both 2021 and 2022.”

However, Juneau falls into the middle range for property rentals for a two-bedroom apartment, according to the report. The average rent in Juneau as of March of this year was $1,561 — about 5% higher than a year ago — compared to a high of $1,713 for the Kodiak Island Borough and a low of $1,081 for the Wrangell-Petersburg Combined Area.

The nationwide cost-of-living index of 265 cities —which includes Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau in Alaska — is compiled quarterly and annually by The Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER). The average cost is set at a value of 100, with 15% of the total value assigned to groceries, 28% to housing, 9% to utilities, 11% to transportation, 5% to health and 33% to miscellaneous.

Values for Juneau were 127.8 overall, 122.7 groceries, 130.5 housing, 140.1 utilities, 124.6 transportation, 151.3 health and 122.2 miscellaneous.

The index values fluctuated considerably more in Fairbanks and smaller remote communities, with the latter gauged by similar surveys by the U.S. military and state agencies. Fairbanks, with an overall cost index of 124.2, had a high cost of 221.9 for utilities and 99.5 for housing, according to C2ER.

The most expensive area in the survey was Manhattan in New York City with an index of 225.2 (compared to Brooklyn at 160.5 and Queens at 139.3), far above second-place Honolulu at 180.3. The least expensive city was Decatur, Illinois, at 77.9, followed by Columbus, Ohio, at 91.8.

The state’s assessment of the federal survey notes the three Alaska cities had the highest food and healthcare costs.

“Groceries in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau were close to 25 percent above the survey average and on par with San Francisco, followed mostly by other Pacific cities,” the article in “Trends” states. “Alaska’s smaller population and distance from the contiguous U.S. contribute to higher grocery costs.”

“Health care in Fairbanks and Juneau was significantly more expensive than in Anchorage, which ranked third for medical costs that were similar to Seattle’s.”

Juneau’s overall cost index rating of 127.8 in 2023 is nearly identical to the rating of 127.9 in 2022, and reflects an ongoing drop compared to 129.1 in 2021, 132.9 in 2020 and 134.1 in 2018.

The state’s assessment notes most communities in Alaska don’t have up-to-date cost-of-living comparisons because data for them isn’t collected. However, the “Trends” article notes the U.S. military’s cost-of-living index for 2024 is 128 in Juneau and Fairbanks, 124 in Anchorage, 132 in Ketchikan, 133 in Sitka, 134 in Petersburg and 138 in Cordova.

A separate department study found immense differences in gas and heating oil prices in Alaska. While the average U.S. price for a gallon of gas is $3.08, prices in Alaska were $3.59 in Juneau, $5.09 in Wrangell and $11.50 in Hughes.

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

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