JUNEAU (AP) -- Alaska's unemployment rate fell a half percentage point in May, dropping to 6.1 percent, the second lowest rate for the month of May in more than 20 years.
Just more than 19,000 Alaskans were unemployed last month, nearly 1,300 fewer than in April, said state Department of Labor economist John Boucher.
Boucher said the statistics continue a trend of unemployment rates that are well below levels last year. In May 1999, Alaska's unemployment rate was 6.7 percent, and more than 21,000 Alaskans were unemployed.
This May, 5,000 more Alaskans were employed than a year ago. Economist Neal Fried said the population has increased, but the increase probably also can be attributed to more jobs available and more people actively looking for work. People without jobs who do not actively look for work are not counted as unemployed.
Alaska's unemployment rate remains above the national civil unemployment rate of 3.9 percent without seasonal adjustments.
''The beginning of the peak visitor season and a vigorous construction industry brightened the state's unemployment picture,'' Boucher said. ''Most of urban Alaska geared up for the tourism season and another solid construction season.''
There were 11,000 more wage and salary jobs available in the state than in April. Retail trade, tourist-related services, construction and the transportation industry contributed most of the job growth.
Unemployment dropped in four of the state's six regions but rose in Kodiak Island Borough, Southwestern Alaska and northern Alaska.
A slowdown in employment related to the end winter fisheries caused higher unemployment in Kodiak and Southwest Alaska. The end of the winter oil drilling and construction season was a major cause of increased unemployment in northern Alaska.
The highest unemployment rate in Alaska was in the Wade Hampton Census Area, which takes in rural villages outside Bethel, at 21 percent. The lowest was in the Aleutians East Borough at 4 percent.
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