Labor figures show steady employment

Overall borough trend ‘positive’

Posted: Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Slightly fewer people were available for work in the Kenai Peninsula Borough in February compared to the same month a year ago.

However, though the work force itself declined by 88 persons, the overall unemployment rate matched February 2005 numbers, according to date released by the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

In a press release issued by the borough Friday, administration spokesperson Bill Popp said the overall trends in the statistics continue to be positive.

“General unemployment remained steady compared to February 2005, while the year-to-date unemployment rate showed a modest decrease,” he said, adding the outlook for the rest of 2006 remains positive.

Borough Mayor John Williams said the peninsula’s economy and work force continue to “head in the right direction” and higher sales tax revenues showed growth over 2004 numbers that were “reflected in our unemployment statistics.”

He predicted several large capital projects within the borough slated to begin this year would “provide a solid foundation for continued economic growth for the borough in the coming year.”

Those include the Tesoro low-sulfur diesel project, oil and gas investment by Escopta, Aurora Gas and Chevron, the South Peninsula Hospital expansion, the likely new Wal-Mart in Kenai and the new Mining and Petroleum Training Service facility project at Kenai Peninsula College.

According to the Department of Labor, February’s unemployment of 11.6 percent, while high compared to, say, Anchorage’s 6.2 percent, was the same in 2005.

But when the data for the first two months of the year were taken as a whole, they showed unemployment actually fell by a tenth of a percent compared to the same two-month period last year.

The total number of workers out of work (those willing but not employed) in February 2006 was 2,758, a reduction of 16 people compared to last year. The year-to-date average borough unemployment fell by 42 compared to the same period last year.

However, the total labor force in February 2006 — the number of people available for work (defined as those willing and able to work, whether employed or not) — fell by 88 workers from 2005 figures. Also, the total of people employed in February of this year was 21,095, 72 less than last year. Year-to-date employment figures were 21,119 in February 2006, 141 fewer than during January and February 2005.

“Even though the total employment has decreased as of February of this year, Kenai Peninsula Borough total unemployment is down,” Popp said. “This trend began in April, 2004 and has continued unabated for the last 23 months with the unemployment rate following the downward trend. March 2004 is the last time the unemployment rate for the month was greater than the same month one year earlier.”

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