Peninsula unemployment drops in July

Posted: Thursday, August 21, 2003

July showed a considerable drop in unemployment numbers on the Kenai Peninsula, as the number of jobs and the size of the labor force increased.

According to the latest Alaska Depart-ment of Labor and Workforce Develop-ment numbers, the unemployment rate dropped by six-tenths of a percentage point from June, falling from 10.2 percent in June to 9.6 percent in July.

Labor force numbers reflected a jump of more than 1,000 people either working or looking for jobs, the department report showed, and the number of people actually employed in July increased by 1,108 over the previous month.

"In terms of the number of jobs, it looks like what we expected," said state labor economist Dan Robinson.

He added the caveat that labor force and employment numbers aren't precise and represent a rough estimate of the ranges they are intended to cover.

"It's done from household surveys," Robinson said of the growth numbers. "When we see 1,000 here, it can either be 1,300 or 700."

He said the numbers are typical for July, as the July 2002 unemployment rate was 9.5 percent.

"Most of that is fishing related and summer visitor related," Robinson said. "We haven't heard anything else in the state that's booming. We don't know of any other industries that are doing this well this year."

July estimates of wage and salary employment show a statewide increase of 8,200 jobs since June.

Most of the jobs added in July were seafood processing, although the visitor industry continued to make seasonal hires.

Statewide, the unemployment rate fell .5 percent in July to 6.9 percent. Robinson said the decline represents a peak in August, and that the state nearly always reaches peak employment in July or August.

"Usually August is the peak," he said. "There's usually a big jump (in employment) from June to July and a smaller jump to August.

"If there is a decrease in August, that would be unusual. Sometimes July is a little higher, but certainly, a large decrease would be unheard of."

In comparison to the state's unemployment rate, the national rate saw a smaller drop, falling two-tenths of a percentage point from 6.5 percent to 6.3 percent.

Although state unemployment numbers are higher than the national percentage, Robinson said Alaska is enjoying a long and consistent string of job growth that the rest of the nation doesn't see.

"Alaska, so far, keeps adding a moderate number of jobs," Robinson said. "Alaska has had 14 or 15 consecutive years of moderate growth about 1 to 2 percent every year. That doesn't seem to be stopping.

"Our economy isn't crashing. It isn't booming. It's kind of putt-putting along."

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