Numbers show drop in employed

Posted: Thursday, December 26, 2002

The number of people out of work jumped on the Kenai Peninsula in November, according to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workplace Development.

The unemployment rate was 10.5 percent in October but rose to 11.1 percent by the end of November.

While only 83 peninsula residents began filing for unemployment benefits in November, the actual number of employed residents fell by 635.

Dan Robinson, a labor analyst with the department, said the figures show a normal trend, as jobs in construction and other seasonal work end for the winter. Many of those workers are not seeking new jobs at this time and are not directly accounted for in the unemployment figures, he said.

Robinson also said that increases in retail jobs for the Christmas season were expected to be too few to reverse the downward trend in December. Preliminary employment figures for December will be released in mid-January.

The typical trend is for employment to fall following the July and August high points and to continue declining until February and March when employment picks up again.

Compared to the state, the unemployment rate on the Kenai Peninsula is always higher, but the state unemployment figure also rose from October to November, reaching 6.7 percent, as compared to 6.3 percent in October.

Preliminary figures for November statewide show a loss of about 8,500 jobs in the month. Most of those losses were in the construction and manufacturing sectors of the economy and reflect seasonal trends, Robinson said.

Alaska's largest cities had the lowest increases in unemployment. Anchorage went from 4.6 to 4.7 percent, a change that Robinson called "statistically insignificant." Fairbanks' rate went from 5.3 to 5.9 percent.

Juneau, meanwhile, saw its unemployment rate drop by one-tenth of 1 percent from 5.1 to 5.0 percent.

All three cities, however, have unemployment rates slightly higher than those of November 2001.

While Alaska's economy has grown slowly but steadily over the past decade, much of the rest of the nation enjoyed more rapid growth in the 1990s. As a result, people who might otherwise have looked to Alaska for good-paying jobs found those jobs in the Lower 48, Robinson said. However, that may be changing, due in part to the slow economy Outside, he said.

"We are just starting to get to the point for the first time in about 10 years where we may have positive migration (into Alaska) again," he said.

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