Seasonal employment up, but within expected trends

Posted: Thursday, August 17, 2006

Preliminary estimates show the unemployment rate within the Kenai Peninsula Borough dropped to 7.2 percent in June, an improvement over the 7.5 percent registered in June of the prior year, but nothing to shout about, according to data from the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Showing seasonal job growth, June unemployment fell from May’s 8 percent. By and large, though, early summer season employment figures are fairly typical, said Dan Robinson, an economist with the labor department.

“They show the bottom is not falling out (of the economy) but it is not an economic boom yet,” Robinson said Monday. “July and August — the peak months — will be more telling about what kind of year it is going to be. When those numbers are in, then we can start talking about whether 2006 is a good year.”

Statewide, unemployment fell to 6.7 percent in June, during which time nonfarm wage and salary employment rose by 12,400 workers to 330,300, Robinson wrote in the August issue of Alaska Economic Trends.

Figures specific to the Kenai Peninsula are not available from the department, which lumps the Kenai Peninsula Borough into the Gulf Coast Region along with Kodiak Island Borough and the Valdez-Cordova Census Area. However, general statewide trends tend to be reflected on the Kenai Peninsula Borough, Robinson noted.

The Leisure and Hospitality industry sector led the way in the seasonal reduction of the statewide unemployment rate, adding 4,600 jobs between May and June, Robinson reported. Also contributing to the seasonal upswing were seafood processing, which added 3,900 jobs since May, and construction, which added 2,400.

Evidence of overall job growth for the year can be found by comparing June 2005 with June 2006. Statewide, there were 4,800 more jobs this year than last, for an overall annual growth rate of 1.5 percent. Robinson said the state has averaged 1.8 percent growth rate over the past five years.

A figure important to the Kenai Peninsula reflects growth in the oil and gas industry. Statewide, the industry added some 1,100 between June 2005 to June 2006, which Robinson called “a hearty growth rate” of 12.9 percent.

The bulk of that oil industry growth appeared in the state’s Northern Region, which includes the Nome Census Area, Northwest Arctic Borough, and the North Slope Borough. However, the Gulf Coast Region, which includes the Kenai Peninsula, also added a small number of oil industry jobs, Robinson said.

One measure of the economy showing a favorable trend is the earnings-per-job figure. The latest analysis available compares the first quarter of this year to the first quarter of 2005. Robinson said the earnings-per-job this year is up $420 over last year.

“That’s a growth rate of 4.8 percent,” he said. “This is kind of encouraging.”

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