Borough economy has pros; cons

The state of the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s economy, with regards to job growth, wages and housing, has both positive and negative aspects, according to the state economist Alyssa Rodrigues.

Speaking at the Industry Outlook Forum at the Old Carrs Mall, Rodrigues said that the borough has fared better than the state in terms of job growth. Using preliminary data, Rodrigues said that, as a whole, Alaska will have zero job growth in 2015.

While the outlook for the state is gloomy, the borough will hopefully fare better.

“My forecast for 2015, which is a pseudo-forecast — it’s not official — is for 3.5 percent (job) growth,” Rodrigues said. “The reason it’s not bigger is because I tend to give you relatively conservative forecasts. I don’t want to tell you that you’ll grow by 9 percent and then have everyone be mad at me when you only grow by 5 percent.”

Rodrigues said that historically, the borough has done better than the state in terms of job growth.

With data from the first half of 2014 compared to 2013, the borough added 200 jobs and saw the highest industry growth in the health care and retail sectors.

Rodrigues said that typically, job growth isn’t seen in just one sector.

It is spread out to fulfill the needs of a growing economy. As of 2013, teacher and retail salesperson are the two most common occupations in the borough.

While the borough outpaces the state in job growth, its job market makeup (percentage of the population working in a particular job sector), is proportional to that of the state.

“(The types of jobs) are actually quite similar to the state, which is both a good thing and a bad thing,” Rodrigues said. “If the state does well, that likely means the state factors are doing well in the borough. If the state’s not doing well, that might not bode well for the borough, because they have the same factors going on.”

When it came to job salaries, Rodrigues said that before last year, the growth from year to year on the Kenai Peninsula just barely passed inflation.

Recently, however, she said that salary growth has surpassed inflation and people have a lot more purchasing power than in the past.

When it came to housing prices on the Kenai Peninsula, Rodrigues said that prices haven’t gone up that much. She said that the average house price in Kenai is cheaper than the state average, and places below Anchorage, Juneau, Fairbanks and the Mat-Su region.

“Maybe you should buy your house now instead of waiting,” Rodrigues said.

Reach Ian Foley at ian.foley@peninsulaclarion.com.

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