Researchers say Alaska's post-covid oil outlook depends on the next few weeks
Since reaching 15,000 jobs in 2014, Alaska's oil industry has experienced consecutive years of workforce shrinkage - falling to as low as 9,100 jobs. In 2019, that changed. Over the last year, the state's number of oil workers saw a small growth for the first time in years, but that all changed in March, when COVID-19 brought the global oil demand to a crushing low.
Mouchine Guetabbi is an economist at UAA's Institute of Social and Economic Research. He says that since the pandemic began, Alaska has lost 10% of its oil jobs. In order to determine how long it might take for that sector of the economy to fully recover, Guetabbi says researchers will be paying close attention to the data during the next 5-8 weeks. He says three key things will indicate how long it might take for the economy to bounce back:
"Are people comfortable going out to restaurants and crowded businesses ... How many small businesses will make it ... and how many of those businesses that do make will call back their employees?" Guetabbi told KTUU. "These three things will tell us basically everything we need to know about what kind of disruption we are talking about."
The Alaska Department of Labor's Chief of Research and Analysis, Dan Robinson tells KTUU that it will also take some time for the data to paint an accurate picture of what the oil market might look like in the future.
"The big questions will be about whether all of the drilling, and the new drilling and the stuff that we were sure was going to happen at the beginning of the year ... whether and when, that will all come back," he said.
Last month's numbers are the latest to be recorded by the Department of Labor and show that right now, there are about 8,900 oil workers in Alaska. Before the pandemic, there were about 10,500 jobs related to the state's oil industry.