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Survey indicates layoffs in downtown Anchorage businesses

Posted: Tuesday, September 18, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A survey of downtown Anchorage employers show that nearly half of those responding plan to lay off staff in coming months, according to the state Department of Labor.

It's normal to have a seasonal downturn this time of year as tourism, construction and fishing slows, said Neal Fried, a state labor economist.

While employers answering the Manpower Inc. survey plan to cut back more than they did last year, Fried said statewide economic indicators are holding steady. Unemployment claims were comparable to last year's, as was the employment growth rate of 2 percent.

Construction is a bright spot. State figures and the employment survey show the construction industry going strong. Over the past decade, construction has experienced steady, incremental growth, Fried said.

Road construction has been the industry's biggest engine lately, said Dick Cattanach, executive director of the Association of General Contractors of Alaska.

The state Department of Transportation spent $270 million of state and federal money on road construction in the 2001 budget year, an all-time high. The department projects allocations for the 2002 budget year will total $400 million, he said.

''If you count money going to airports and ferries, the figures are even higher,'' said Dennis Poshard, assistant to the commissioner of the Transportation Department. Total transportation construction adds up to nearly $500 million for the 2001 budget year. Poshard said the state is looking at more than $600 million for the 2002 budget year.

Transportation construction projects more than compensated for the hit to commercial building when three big-box stores slated for the area were canceled and a fourth postponed earlier this year, Cattanach said. Residential construction was flat to marginally up, as lowered interest rates balanced with a soft economy, he said.

In other sectors, oil is strong, timber and seafood are down pretty hard; retail, government and transportation are fairly flat. The service sector was up by 3,000 jobs from last year, Fried said, largely because of a boom in health care jobs.



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