2007 a good year for employment

Posted: Thursday, February 14, 2008

Overall, the average number of unemployed in the Kenai Peninsula Borough fell last year compared to 2006, while the size of the workforce grew, as did the number of people holding down jobs.

Figures presented to the borough assembly on Feb. 5 by borough Economic Analyst Jeanne Camp show December closing out a very good employment year for the borough.

Those figures show that the 2007 monthly average labor force of 25,498 people was 80 more than during 2006. Meanwhile, employment grew by 211 workers, and average unemployment fell by 0.5 percent to 7.8 percent.

Borough Mayor John Williams said many factors contributed to rising employment in 2007, despite the loss of more than 100 jobs at Agrium.

"Chevron has added employees through contractors," he said. Much of their work is on facilities on the west side of Cook Inlet and on platforms being prepared for deep drilling.

"There's also quite a bit of activity down south at the Cosmopolitan Unit and at Marathon's gas well project," Williams said.

With Agrium's closure, some of those workers took jobs with BP on the North Slope. Those that still live on the peninsula, however, are counted in local employment figures, he said.

Also adding to employment during 2007 were projects like the 78-unit Aspen Hotel and a new bank in Kenai.

"All that contributed to the workforce," he said.

December numbers were also favorable. The unemployment rate during the last month of 2007 stood at 8.9 percent, some 0.2 percent below the December 2006 rate. The total number of people out of work (and actively seeking jobs) was 2,203, a decrease of 53 workers from December the previous year.

Some 22,557 folks were on the job during December. That was 40 more than in the same month during 2006, Camp said.

The averages show 2007 as the "best year" in the past 18 years in three of four categories the size of the labor force, the unemployment rat, and the number of working people.

The unemployment average matched the second-lowest year (2000), coming close to the 1,931 out of work during 2001.

Camp cautioned that much of the labor data, supplied by the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, are based on surveys. The figures from surveys are plugged into a model to generate the statistics.

The accuracy of the model, which she said was the national standard, improves with the size of the survey area. That is, it produces better figures for New York City or Los Angeles than for a municipality the size of the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

Nevertheless, Camp said the data are useful in comparing borough figures from year to year.

As to why 2007 proved a relatively good year, Camp said a deeper analysis wouldn't be ready until late next summer. However, beyond the oilfield jobs, it also appears there was healthy job growth in the lower-paying retail and services sectors.

Hal Spence can be reached at hspence@ptialaska.net.



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