Unemployment Rate Rises in August

Posted: Sunday, September 22, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- Alaska's unemployment rate rose to 5.8 percent in August, up 0.8 percent from the figure a year ago, the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development reported Friday.

The August figure was up just a tenth of a percentage point from July, as Alaska's summer surge in employment started winding down.

The increase in the unemployment percentage came even though the number of employed Alaskans surged by more than 3,000 people, or 2 percent, compared with a year ago. The overall labor force rose by more than 6,000, though, an increase of nearly 3 percent.

''We're starting to wonder a little about migration,'' said Dan Robinson, a labor economist for the department. There are no solid numbers, he said, but ''people may be coming up here because things are a little sour in Oregon and Washington.''

Anchorage's unemployment rate was 4.4 percent, up from 3.7 percent a year ago, while the labor force rose by more than 4,400 people.

Fairbanks' jobless rate was 4.7 percent, only slightly above the 4.5 percent of a year ago. Fairbanks added 300 jobs and the labor force rose by nearly 600.

Juneau's unemployment rose to 4.3 percent from 3.8 percent a year ago. Unlike most other areas of Alaska, Juneau's total employment and its labor force both declined. Overall, 121 jobs were lost.

The southwestern region showed a tiny gain of half a dozen jobs compared with a year ago, while the labor force rose 2 percent. That lifted the jobless rate to 11.1 percent from 9.4 percent a year ago.

The high and low jobless rates for the state were once again the Wade Hampton Census Area at 20.6 percent and the Aleutians East Borough at 2.6 percent.

The construction industry added roughly 700 jobs since August 2001, a healthy increase of 3.7 percent as millions of new federal road-building dollars poured into the state. The service area and retail trade also added jobs. Manufacturing and mining lost employment compared with the number a year ago.

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