Why Anchorage's job recovery is falling behind the statewide trend

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - After three years of decline, new data shows the number of jobs in Alaska increased in late 2018, but it also shows Anchorage is lagging compared to the rest of the state.

As State Economist Neal Fried wrote in the September 2019 issue of Alaska Economic Trends, Anchorage is home to nearly half of the state's jobs but somehow saw slightly larger employment losses during the recession. State Economist Neal Fried says this can largely be credited to two factors: oil and retail.

Nordstrom, Sam's stores, Sears, and Toys 'R' Us are just a few examples of businesses in Anchorage that have fallen victim to the ever-changing retail economy. State Economist Neal Fried says this is largely why Anchorage is taking a hit job numbers.

"That didn't happen statewide, in fact, during some of these periods, if you take out Anchorage's negative numbers, other parts of the state saw positive retail," said Fried.

Fried says another factor that's pushed the state as a whole into job growth, yet left Anchorage behind, is the oil industry. The most recent data from the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development shows 64 percent - more than half of the state's oil jobs - are on the North Slope.

"Whereas Anchorage's stake, even though we're the headquarter city for the oil industry, those numbers stayed relatively flat," said Fried. "They weren't losing, but they weren't gaining."

However, Fried says just because most of the state's oil jobs are on the North Slope, doesn't mean Anchorage isn't benefiting.

"When you think about it, the largest group of Alaskan's that work on the North Slope live in Anchorage, so the fact that North Slope is seeing gains in jobs is good for Anchorage because a lot of those residents live here, and of course they're spending that new income," said Fried.

As far as the next few years? CEO of the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation, Bill Popp, predicts it isn't looking so good.

"There's a lot of uncertainty with the budget debates that are going on at the state level that have been a significant negative headwind towards business being willing to make significant new investments in the state overall," said Popp. "We're going to probably be in this, given what we know today, for at least the next two to three years in terms of additional recession unless something significant happens to improve the business community's confidence in a stable state business environment and tax environment."

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