Southeast Alaska Jobs Forecast for 2019
By MARY KAUFFMAN
January 04, 2019
According to the latest edition of Alaska Economic Trends, growth is in Southeast Alaska's forecast for the first time since 2012: a slight gain of about 50 jobs, or 0.1 percent. Economist Karinne Wiebold with the Alaska Department of Labor reported the department expects a handful of industries to add a modest number of jobs in 2019, offsetting losses that come from government cuts and poor fishing runs.
Wiebold writes that continuing population loss will also dampen Southeast Alaska's employment outlook for 2019.
As with the state overall, Wiebold reported that more people left Southeast than moved in from 2016-2017, marking 5 straight years of net migration losses for both the Southeast Region and the state. For Southeast, it was the third straight year that natural population increase wasn't large enough to offset the net migration loss, shrinking the overall population.
According to January 2019 Alaska Economic Trends, Southeast lost 900 people overall in 2017, bringing its total population loss to 1,600 since 2014. According to Wiebold's article, the current state recession and relative strength of the Lower 48's economy largely drove the population decline in Southeast.
Wiebold writes that net migration losses mean fewer workers and less local spending because households that move tend to have at least one working-age adult. She reported that this is especially relevant in Southeast because the region's population is older so its economy has fewer potential workers to lose.
Southeast Alaska's largest age group is between 55 and 59 and the second largest age group is 60 to 64. Wiebold writes that many baby boomers arrived when Alaska was awash in oil money during the late 1970s and early '80s and she says they will continue to age out of the workforce in the near future.
Wiebold sees growth in health care in Southeast saying an aging population increases demand for health care forecasting to add 50 jobs in 2019.
According to Wiebold's article, the Alaska Department of Labor expects health care jobs to continue to grow - as it has grown most years - unless the population continues to decline or health care policies change at the state of national levels.
Wiebold reports some gains for mining and construction is in the 2019 forecast for Southeast Alaska. Southeast is home to two active mines near Juneau, Kensington and Greens Cree, which extract gold and silver. She reports that natural resources and mining employment grew by 50 jobs in 2017 and another 50 in 2018, and the department is forecasting similar growth for 2019.
Construction is also set to add 50 jobs in 2019, according to Wiebold. She reports this is less a sign of recovery than of the industry finding its bottom. In 2018 at 1,300 construction jobs, Southeast Alaska's construction employment was at it lowest point since 1992.
One of Southeast's strengths, reported by Wiebold, is tourism, and the number of cruise ship visitors is anticipated to increase by 16 percent in 2019 with nearly all of the 1,361,400 passengers stopping in Southeast. The increase is forecasted to add 50 jobs in Southeast.
The outlook for Southeast is similar for trade, transportation and utilities, at 50 jobs, after three years of flat or slightly decreased employment. Again, according to Wiebold, most of the growth will be tired to tourism, such as sightseeing transportation.
Trade, transportation and utilities includes retail, another industry that depends on tourism as well as local demand. The forecast is that retail will likely hold steady in 2019, with strong visitor demand offsetting tepid local demand due to population loss.
Unfortunately the fishing outlook is looking grim for a second year in a row. Southeast Alaska had weak salmon runs in 2018 with sockeye, coho, and pink harvests coming in at least 50 percent lower than expected according to Wiebold.
On the upside, chinook and chum salmon exceeded expectations wrote Wiebold. While chum is one of the lowest value species, it made up 61 percent of the Southeast Region's estimated ex-vessel value in 2018, up from 50 percent the year before.
2019 will bring continued challenges. The pink harvest is forecasted at 18 million fish, which Wiebold reports will be about half the 10-year average and the lowest odd-year harvest in 32 years. According to Wiebold, pink salmon, which have two-year life cycles, produce larger runs during odd years.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game also expects very low chinook returns in the Taku and Stikine rivers in 2019. Wiebold wrote, while chinook, or king, is one of the smaller harvests in Southeast, it's the highest-value species.
Halibut harvests are expected to be low, which could hurt charter fishing.
Commercial fishing jobs were not included in the Alaska Dept. of Labor's estimates because fishermen are mainly self-employed, but weak fish returns will also affect seafood processing and charter fishing employment, and the effects can bleed into other industries.
Government in Southeast Alaska is forecast to shed more jobs but the degree of job loss is uncertain. About a third of Southeast's employment is in government, making the region especially vulnerable to cuts.
According to the report by Wiebold, state government has lost jobs in recent years, and not just during Alaska's ongoing recession. Southeast's state government employment, which includes the University of Alaska Southeast, has declined or remained flat every year since 2011.
For 2019, the Alaska Department of Labor is forecasting a loss of another 100 government jobs in Southeast, but a lot depends on state policy decision that are not yet known.
The department expects local government to lose 50 jobs in 2019, following the statewide trend, as its funding is now feeling the pinch of Alaska's lengthy recession and population loss in the region.
Southeast's federal employment has been stable for several years and is forecasted to remain flat in 2019.
Source of News: