Job growth in Alaska expected to slow

Posted: Sunday, May 05, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Alaska's job growth is expected to slow a bit over the next two years, state labor economists say.

Statewide this year, 4,200 new jobs are expected for a 1.4 percent gain, bringing total employment to 294,200. Economists expect 3,700 more jobs in 2003.

The gains are slightly off the 2.1 percent growth seen last year, but good enough to extend the state's 13-year streak of employment growth.

The economy is expected to remain good in some sectors, such as construction and services, said Neal Fried, an Anchorage-based economist for the state Department of Labor. But a negative swing in oil and gas is a big factor behind the weakening job outlook.

The economy also is dogged by other worries like the possibility of lower tourism due to the Sept. 11 terrorism and the looming state budget deficit, he said.

In Anchorage, construction employment is projected to remain relatively flat over the next two years, but that in itself is good news, Fried said. The construction industry has posted several years of strong growth and many major projects are planned for the next two years to sustain builders.

Since the real estate and banking crash of the late 1980s, the construction industry has posted steady gains, Fried said.

Big projects this year include a $220 million expansion of the Anchorage airport; construction of two Anchorage high schools, valued at a combined $116 million; a $23 million expansion of the University of Alaska Anchorage library; and a new $35 million Alaska Psychiatric Institute building.

Home building is expected to cool from last year's strong showing, but construction is still expected to be strong due to low interest rates and fewer houses on the market.

For the first time in years, however, little hotel or hospital construction is planned.

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