Attendees at the Southeast Conference Mid-Session Summit listen to a live video speech by U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Tuesday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Attendees at the Southeast Conference Mid-Session Summit listen to a live video speech by U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Tuesday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Report: Juneau second-best summer job place in U.S. for youths — in part because there are fewer of them

Update of annual Southeast Alaska economic report features other contrasting up-and-down trends

The grim news is Juneau’s youth population is in a significant and long-term decline. The good news is one study declares the city has the second-best summer job market for youths in the United States.

A wide range of similar bad news/good news points were shared by regional business, political and other leaders during the two-day Southeast Conference Mid-Session Summit at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Tuesday and Wednesday. Officials discussing the bleak present status of the state’s ferry system also talked about a vibrant future, with others noting setbacks in the seafood industry occurring during a surging of the mariculture industry.

A reference point throughout the summit was an update of the annual report “Southeast Alaska by the Numbers,” presented within the first hour of the gathering by Meilani Schijvens, owner of Rain Coast Data.

“We’re going to have five updates: three of them are going to be great, two of them are not going to be so great,” she said in setting the tone for the conference.

Schijvens said one of her favorite updated findings is a WalletHub study assessing the best places in the U.S. to get summer jobs, with Juneau ranking third overall and second for youths ages 16-24.

“Having kids in that age group, and having their friends be also in that age group, I can tell you the hype is real,” she said. “It is just really a great time to be young in Southeast Alaska. There’s so many job opportunities, the jobs pay well, they’re good jobs that provide career pathways into year-round employment.”

A key reason for that is also a key concern throughout Alaska — there are roughly two job openings for every person seeking a job, Schijvens said. Furthermore, Southeast Alaska’s population is dropping more than anywhere else in the state with a 2.22% decline between 2021 and 2023, followed by the northern region at 2.2%, Southwest Alaska at 2.01% and Interior at 1.58%. The Anchorage/Mat-Su and Gulf Coast regions both reported increases of 1% or more.

In Southeast, the biggest losses were in Skagway at 7%, Haines at 4%, and Ketchikan, Yakutat, Wrangell and Hoonah-Angoon at 3%. Juneau’s population declined 2% during that three-year period.

Schijvens said some of the factors include Southeast’s population being older on average than the rest of the state — with deaths outnumbering births for the first time ever — an increase in outmigration of the prime-age working population starting in 2021,

“We need to really figure out how to get younger people to come to Southeast Alaska, we need to figure out how to attract and retain younger families,” she said. “And we know how to do this. We’ve done the surveys, we’ve done the analysis. What younger people need, they need access to housing that they can afford, they need access to childcare they can afford, they need access to transportation that they can afford. I think we need to make sure that we’re keeping up that high quality of recreation, so continuing to invest in places like Eaglecrest. We need to make sure the quality of life is really high here, so we need to continue to lean into those activities for kids and quality in K-12 education.”

Another of the “great” updates in the report is jobs grew 2% in 2023 compared to 2022, indicating a full recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic when compared to employment for February in 2019, Schijvens said. But the rate of growth is slowing, as a 13% decline in employment in 2020 was followed by a 5% increase in 2021 and 3.4% increase in 2022 — and there is a projected increase of 1.4% in 2024.

“Transportation is where we have the largest job growth, followed by construction, tourism, healthcare, local government, professional business and financial services, and retail,” she said.

Tribal government, the fastest-growing jobs sector in 2022, saw a loss of eight total jobs in 2023, suggesting difficulties filling open positions rather than a downturn, Schijvens said. A similar loss of eight jobs was reported for federal government jobs.

“Our loss leader continues to be state government,” she said. A total of 120 jobs were lost in 2023 and “in the last 12 years we’ve lost a quarter of all state jobs in Southeast Alaska — that represents 1,400 jobs.”

Looking ahead to 2024, however, Schijvens said the concern is the seafood industry, the only sector where a loss of jobs is forecast in her updated report. Employment in the industry remained flat in 2023 at roughly 3,650 total jobs — following a loss of nearly 270 jobs between 2021 and 2022 — another that is expected to decline by another 100 employees in 2024.

Among the reasons for the industry’s decline, she said, are a global downturn in seafood demand, a glut of inventory and crash of salmon prices, and Trident Seafoods announcing in December plans to divest itself of facilities in Ketchikan and Petersburg.

Growth in tourism and healthcare jobs are forecast in 2024, while mining, construction and transportation are expected to remain flat, according to Schijvens

Another plus, Schijvens said, is wages have risen about 5% while inflation has stabilized at rates that have been less than 2% annually since last June.

However, housing availability and prices continue to present challenges, she said. The average price of a single-family home nationwide is about $343,000 nationwide and $360,000 in Anchorage this year, but about $494,000 in Juneau — the highest among all Southeast Alaska cities in her report.

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at or (907) 957-2306.

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

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.

The front page of the Juneau Empire on Feb. 26, 2004. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Empire Archives: Juneau’s history for the week of March 2

Three decades of capital city coverage.

Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, speaks Thursday, April 27, 2023, at a news conference in Juneau. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska House considers constitutional guarantee for Permanent Fund dividend

The Alaska House of Representatives will vote as soon as Friday morning… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024

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

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024

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

Alexei Painter, director of Alaska’s Legislative Finance Division, presents an update of the state’s budget situation for the coming year to the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Analysis: Balanced state budget next year can include a $1,535 PFD and $680 BSA increase

However, a “statutory” $3,688 PFD would result in a deficit of more than $1.2 billion, report says.

Most Read