Anchorage to see modest growth, forecasters say

Posted: Thursday, January 11, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The Anchorage economy should gain 2,750 new jobs this year, the Anchorage Economic Development Corp. said Wednesday.

That's about the same level of job growth for the state's largest city as last year. About 1,600 of those new jobs will come in the service sector, which is the city's biggest employer.

The nonprofit economic development corporation made its annual economic forecast for Anchorage Wednesday. The highly anticipated forecast is an early look on the health of the city's economy.

Other points from the forecast:

--The year 2000 ended with approximately 134,000 people employed. The city gained 2,700 jobs for a 2.1 percent increase over 1999. That exceeded the 1.5 percent growth that AEDC had forecast a year ago.

--Employment in the oil industry will be steady to slightly higher this year, although the industry seems primed for major projects like a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope in later years.

--The boom of big-box store in Anchorage has slowed and 2001 won't see much job expansion in the trade sector.

--Manufacturing continues to be a relatively small part of the local economy. A gain of 100 jobs is forecast -- all at the Alaska Seafood International plant.

--The housing market is robust on Anchorage's fringes in Eagle River, Chugiak and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. But brokers report that the market in Anchorage itself is slow, due to a lack of homes on the market.

--No growth is expected in government, one of Anchorage's biggest employment sectors, due in part to cutbacks in municipal jobs.

--Construction jobs should increase by 300 and the city has a shortage of skilled workers, including plumbers and electricians. Expansions continue at the city's hospitals and airport. New office towers are planned for Midtown and downtown. Anchorage is getting a new high school and construction continues on huge oilfield modules at the port.

--Air cargo appears strong, with 350 new jobs forecast. Most of the 170 jobs lost in the recent shutdown of Reeve Aleutian Airways already seem to have been absorbed by other airlines and new cargo flights into China should benefit Anchorage as a jetliner stopover.

The forecast by Jeff Pokorny, research director for AEDC, noted the potential for big projects that could send employment skyrocketing: a possible missile defense system, the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling and the construction of a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope.

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