Numbers show link between gas line, state pocketbook

Posted: Thursday, September 23, 2004

The numbers are tantalizing. The latest 10-year jobs forecast by the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development shows a bright employment future for the state, and the proposed natural gas line from the North Slope figures to be a major part.

It's no surprise, though, that jobs would come pouring in with the advent of the gas line. But seeing a number -- no matter how ephemeral it may be -- allows people to feel a direct pocketbook connection with the project. Many of those jobs would likely go to people who are living in Alaska right now.

State analysts say that if gas line construction begins at the end of their forecast period, which covers the years 2002 to 2012, the project could bring 4,000 to 5,000 direct and indirect jobs.

More than half of those would be in the oil and gas sectors, according to the analysts, but jobs would also be added to transportation, engineering and accommodation sectors, as well as the trades.

The state's promising outlook isn't just linked to the gas line, however. The analysts saw good growth in construction, mining and visitor-reliant industries.

In its positive forecast, the report by the Labor Department's Research and Analysis Division also found that the jobs scene ''will result in a wide variety of employment opportunities for the unemployed, under-employed and recent graduates of Alaska schools.''

The total number of jobs in the state is expected to reach 335,500 by 2012.

But the report did sound a note of caution for the Fairbanks area, without even mentioning the region. And that's the problem, for the bulk of the expected robust job growth is expected to be in other parts of the state.

''The creation of new jobs will be concentrated in Southcentral Alaska. Fully 55 percent of all jobs will be located in the Anchorage/Mat-Su region in 2012, up from 51 percent in 2002. Many of the trends that will define growth for the next decade are already in place.''

This latest jobs forecast could be seen as cause for concern in the Fairbanks North Star Borough. But it could just as well be seen as a boost for efforts to entice more industry to this region.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Sept. 15

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