JUNEAU (AP) -- Alaska's unemployment rate rose sharply in December.
The state Department of labor says unemployment rose nine-tenths of a percentage point from November to 7.6 percent. The comparable national rate was unchanged at 5.7 percent.
Labor Department officials say the size of the increase is noteworthy, since unemployment from November to December usually increases about two-tenths or three-tenths of a percentage point.
The December rate of 7.6 percent is also up sharply from the same period last year, when the jobless rate was 6.2 percent.
The Labor Department report says the weak national economy may be an indirect cause of Alaska's higher unemployment. When the economy was strong in the late 1990s, the prospect of plentiful jobs in the Lower 48 lured many jobless Alaskans south.
''The current national economy has less to offer and more jobless Alaskans may be deciding to stay in the state to look for work,'' the report said.
State economists say Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau all saw moderate increases in unemployment rates. But the state's largest cities remain below the statewide level. The highest unemployment rates are in Southwest Alaska, the Gulf coast and northern Alaska.
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