Juneau’s overall population is still getting older, but young adults are now the largest group in town.
People ages 20-39 made up the largest group in Juneau in 2017, according to Department of Labor and Workforce Development numbers released this week by the Juneau Economic Development Council (JEDC). That marks the first time at least in the past decade where the 40-59 demographic hasn’t been the largest in town, according to the Department of Labor statistics.
Even though it’s the largest age demographic, the 20-39-year-old group is still in decline, like most age groups in Juneau. The 30-40 age group has been consistently gaining people the past five years, JEDC Lead Researcher Eva Bornstein said.
In regard to the rise in that 30-40 age group, Bornstein and JEDC Executive Director Brian Holst said part of it is a side effect of the tourism industry. He said he and others at JEDC have talked with many people in that age group who worked here for a summer job or came here for a long stay and decided to move permanently.
“A large part of it has to do with the very strong tourism industry,” Holst said. “A lot of young people have had a chance to experience Juneau at its best in the summertime and want to come back.”
Holst said this speculation is based on anecdotal research, not any hard numbers.
“Anecdotally, we know that that happens all the time,” Holst said. “That’s one of the unappreciated benefits of having the strong tourism economy, is that young people get exposed to Juneau that otherwise might not be that then make in their life plan to come back here.”
The tourism industry is expected to keep growing, according to JEDC’s annual Economic Indicators and Outlook report. Every year as of late, Juneau breaks a record for cruise ship passengers arriving in town, and 2019 is expected to welcome a record 1,290,350 passengers to town. The number of airline passengers coming to Juneau has also increased each of the past five years, according to the report, with 345,348 people coming off planes at the Juneau International Airport in 2017.
As a whole, population dropped 1.4 percent in 2017, according to JEDC’s report. It’s the second year in a row that the population has fallen, as there was a 1.6 percent decrease in 2016.
Holst said this decline is attributable to multiple factors, but one is that the economy in the Lower 48 is doing well after years of struggling. He pointed out that Juneau’s population went up after the 2009 national recession, and now that Alaska is in a recession and unemployment is dropping in the Lower 48, people are following the jobs.
The only group that is growing is the senior population (60 and above), which increased by 2.8 percent from 2016 to 2017. Juneau’s median age is 38.1, up from 38.0 last year. The population has been aging for the past five years, Bornstein said.
The biggest decrease in population (3.8 percent) was in the 40-59 age group. Part of that decline in recent years, Bornstein said, is due to people in that population growing older and entering the oldest age group.
People can read the full report — which includes data about housing prices, wages, business sales and more — at www.JEDC.org. Holst and Bornstein will be presenting to the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary and other organizations in the coming weeks about their findings and will field questions from community members.
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.