ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Tens of thousands of jobs were lost this past April, according to new data released on Friday by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, with a release from the commissioner's office largely blaming the coronavirus pandemic for devastating job losses across Alaska.
"COVID-19 caused disruptions across the state, especially to public-facing businesses such as stores, bars, restaurants, and other gathering places," officials wrote. "Some of these jobs will return as restrictions ease, but many seasonal jobs won’t materialize this year — such as those serving cruise ship tourists. Others will return only slowly as employers assess uncertain demand and changing operating procedures as a result of the pandemic."
The state's job count dropped by 42,200, the report states, down 13.1 percent in April from the same month in 2019.
"The timing was really bad for Alaska," said Neal Fried, State of Alaska Economist. "Alaska's economy wakes up this time of the year, and typically, April, May, June, July, August - we gain jobs."
Instead, the state saw severe job losses early in the coronavirus pandemic. Leisure and hospitality suffered the toughest losses, with the job rate falling by 48.1 percent, or 15,600 jobs, compared to last April. Retail lost 5,000 jobs, a rate of 14.3 percent, while local government lost 4,000 jobs, including public education. State government employment fell by 1,500 jobs, mostly at the University of Alaska.
April is a typical time for visitor-related industries, construction, and others to start adding jobs as they prepare for what would normally be a busy summer season.
The same data set shows the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate jumped to 12.9 percent for April, an increase from 5.2 percent in March, with the comparable U.S rate rising from 4.4 percent to 14.7 percent.
"In one month, we sent out $129 million dollars in unemployment claims," Fried said. "That's more than we sent out for all of 2019 - the whole year - and more we sent out in 2018."
Across the state, non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates also rose dramatically, with the largest increases found in rural areas, particularly in ones that would've normally been preparing for tourists, such as Denali, Haines and Skagway. Anchorage’s rate went up to 13.9 percent, according to the report, with Fairbanks’ rate rising to 11.2 percent and Juneau’s loss rate going up to 10.8 percent.
"I can say Alaska is a little bit different," said Fried, referring to the coming months but not wanting to go into specifics since they are so difficult to pinpoint, "but we may be looking at effects that linger a little bit longer again because of the timing of this."
Census hiring was the only sector to have more jobs this past April than in April of 2019, with an increase of about 700 jobs.
You can read the full issue of Alaska Economic Trends for May of 2020 by clicking here.
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