Peninsula employment outpacing labor force growth

Posted: Thursday, July 26, 2007

As expected, the arrival of summer has seen more Kenai Peninsula residents back on the job, but the latest available labor statistics show the increase in employment may be more than the standard seasonal flash in the pan.

"It is notable that three of the four factors that are estimated each month set record-best values in the Kenai Peninsula Borough during June 2007," said Jeanne Camp, economic analyst for the borough. "The labor force was at an all-time high, as was employment for the month. The unemployment rate set a record June low. The unemployment estimate, the only factor not setting a new record, was third lowest since 1990."

According to the numbers, the total borough labor force in June of this year was 27,390, an increase of 185 people over June a year ago. Employment, too, saw an increase this June over last, with 266 more people holding down jobs.

In June 2006, the unemployment rate stood at 7.1 percent, but registered only 6.7 percent this year, as the number of unemployed workers fell from the 1,929 out of work in June 2006 to 1,848 this June.

The labor force data, assembled by the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, are not a person-by-person count, but are derived from a survey of about 2 percent of the population, Camp said. Those figures are then plugged into a national standard computer model from which are generated the community statistics, Camp said.

According to Brigitta Windisch-Cole, with the labor department, the state uses the survey and computer program to estimate the labor pool, but uses data actually reported by employers to figure the numbers of people working. What the latter figure lacks, she said, is an accurate number of self-employed workers.

Year-to-date figures show a healthy employment trend. For instance, the year-to-date unemployment rate for the first six months of 2007 is 8.6 percent. That's 0.8 percent lower than during the same reporting period in 2006.

The borough's total labor force for June, those able and willing to work, stood at 27,390 workers, an increase of 185 over June 2006. The year-to-date average borough labor force for 2007 is 25,167 as of June, a gain of 105 workers over 2006 figures.

Some 25,542 people held down jobs in June of this year, compared to 25,276 in June 2006. Employment year-to-date increased as well, gaining 298 persons over the first six months of 2006 (an average 23,017 compared to 22,719).

"To me, it is all positive," Camp said. "I can't see any downside at all on this. Employment is keeping ahead of labor force growth."

Camp said she had no idea exactly where the jobs are coming from, though she noted that construction, slow during the first quarter, has now picked up almost to last year's to-date levels, and seasonal employment in the retail and services sectors is increasing as expected.

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