Bright spot: Alaska leads nation in job creation

Posted: Sunday, July 25, 2010

Alaska has led the nation in job creation over the last year, according to new data from the non-profit Rockefeller Institute.

Alaska topped North Dakota in percentage growth in jobs over the last year, mostly by not losing jobs. Those were the only two states with positive job growth in the year ended March 31, the last year for which data was available. Alaska's jobs increased by 1.3 percent, while North Dakota was up 0.6 percent.

The most recent data from the state, as of June, shows Alaska with 342,400 people employed, up 4,200 from a year ago. That data does not include the self-employed, fishermen, agricultural workers, and some others.

Alaska's oil-fueled economy has remained strong over the last year while others have declined.

"It's not surprising that Alaska is doing better than the average in the country, or better than most states," said state labor economist Neil Fried.

The strength of the oil business, where prices have over the last year stayed over $70 a barrel, and sometimes topped $80 a barrel, has kept state government coffers flush and state government spending stable as well.

That's come at a time when other state governments are laying off workers to balance their budgets.

"From a fiscal situation, we've got to be one of the envies of the nation," Fried said.

Fried said he was also not surprised to hear that it was North Dakota joining Alaska as one of the two states creating jobs during the last year.

"The reason North Dakota is doing as well as it is is oil and gas," he said.

Alaska's economy doesn't have some of the factors that have driven down economies elsewhere, said Fried, who works for the Department of Labor and Workforce Development's Research and Analysis Section.

"We just don't have some of the huge negatives that some states do," he said.

"One of the industries that's been hit really hard nationally has been manufacturing, and we have very little of it," Fried said.

What manufacturing the state does have is often seafood production, and that doesn't move around the way some other manufacturing jobs do, he said.

A key part of the Anchorage economy is international air cargo, and that appears to be beginning a rebound, he said.

Alaska is heavily reliant on federal government jobs, and that's been stable as well. The housing market in Alaska has softened, but not collapsed like some markets in the South and West.

"The visitor industry is down, but that's not a reflection of our economy, but the national economy and how many people chose to travel," he said.

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