Group forecasts continued growth for Anchorage economy

Posted: Thursday, January 10, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Anchorage's economy will continue to grow this year, although at a slower rate than last year, according to a forecast by the Anchorage Economic Development Corp.

AEDC is a nonprofit that aims to bring new companies to Anchorage and help existing businesses grow.

Jeff Pokorny, the group's research director, told an Anchorage audience Wednesday that about 2,000 new jobs will be created this year.

Pokorny's prediction last year of around 2,800 new jobs was fairly accurate, said state labor economist Neal Fried. Final state numbers are due later this month.

Corresponding job-growth rates are 2.1 percent for 2001 and 1.4 percent for 2002.

As in past years, most new jobs are likely to come from the service sector, Pokorny said. This is a catch-all sector that includes hospitals, law offices, auto body shops, hotels and many other businesses and nonprofits.

The wild card in the service sector is tourism, which Pokorny guessed will be down as much as 35 percent this summer. Convention business, booked well in advance, is strong, but bed-tax collections from hotels are projected to be down.

Overall, the forecast is for 1,600 more service jobs.

The retail and wholesale sector is expected to add 500 jobs as new stores open, such as the South Anchorage Fred Meyer.

Construction is expected to grow by 200 jobs, with airport concourse construction, several large retail projects and a strong housing market on the horizon.

Pokorny predicted some growth in government employment, adding perhaps 100 jobs, while the finance, insurance and real estate sector should be flat.

The completion of the modules for the Northstar oil field meant a loss of 400 jobs in the oil and gas sector that will show up in 2002 numbers, although those jobs essentially ended last year. BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. on Monday announced it would cut 195 staff and contractor jobs this winter, most of them based in Anchorage.

The big picture is no major changes.

''Anchorage's economy has been remarkably stable in recent years,'' Pokorny said, and this year is no different. ''The recession in the Lower 48 that began in March has had a limited impact on the Anchorage economy.''

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