State labor force sees overall rise in wages

Posted: Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Alaska’s growing labor force took home nearly $13 billion in wages last year, some $700 million more than in 2005, according to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

In the May issue of Alaska Economic Trends, published monthly by the department, state economist Dan Robinson said that when adjusted for inflation, payroll grew more than $300 million.

Leading the way, Robinson said, was natural resources and mining.

Data shows that oil and gas dominated the category, with jobs paying almost $200 million more in 2006 than in 2005, more than a fourth of the overall unadjusted increase. Those employed in oil and gas extraction took home an average $145,000 last year, while those in the support industry made more than $86,000.

Mining, meanwhile, showed a 26-percent increase in payroll. The average mine job paid $80,000 in 2006.

The best wages were paid for jobs in the North Slope Borough, where the average salary was $73,614 and the total annual payroll $777.8 million.

That compares to the statewide average annual wage of $41,326 and total payroll of $12.98 billion.

The average 2006 wage on the Kenai Peninsula Borough was $35,971, putting the municipality 10th on the list of boroughs and census areas listed by the department.

Labor statisticians break the data into 10 employment categories. Natural resources (oil and gas) and mining are two, and within them there was a total payroll leap of 20 percent over 2005 figures.

Only manufacturing (mostly seafood processing) and government wages failed to keep pace with inflation (3.2 percent in 2006).

Here is a look at the percentage change in total wages, adjusted for inflation, within each category:

· Natural Resource and Mining, 20 percent;

· Manufacturing, 1.9 percent;

· Construction, 4.1 percent;

· Trade, Transportation and Utilities, 3.3 percent;

· Information, 3.7 percent;

· Financial Activities, 6.6 percent;

· Professional and Business Services, 8.4 percent;

· Educational and Health Services, 7.6 percent;

· Leisure and Hospitality, 5.5 percent;

· Other Services, 4.9 percent; and

· Government, 2.6 percent.

Robinson noted that the payroll growth did not necessarily mean individuals saw bigger paychecks, though some likely did.

“Total payroll grows when the existing jobholders are paid more or when additional jobs are created,” he said in the Trends article. “Typically, the growth comes from some combination of the two.”

As one might expect, the private sector accounts for the greater percentage of payroll in Alaska, 73 percent in 2006, up slightly from the 72.2 percent registered the prior year, data showed.

Meanwhile, Robinson noted, the federal government’s share fell from 8.3 percent to 7.8 percent and local government’s share decreased from 11.2 percent to 10.9 percent. State government’s share remained at 8.3 percent of all payroll dollars.

In 2006 dollars, payroll has increased roughly $1.5 billion since 2000.

Hal Spence can be reached at

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