Alaska Economic Trends examines impact of pandemic on Alaska's economy

    State Economists Karinne Wiebold and Dan Robinson in a photo taken prior to the need for social distancing

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - The May edition of Alaska Economic Trends examines the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Alaska's economy and seasonal employment.

    Trends is published by the Research and Analysis Unit of the State Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

    Unit Chief Dan Robinson penned the lead article on the pandemic's impact on the state's economy.

    While a guest on Action Line Robinson said that at the beginning of this month they had telling, but limited information available to gauge the impacts.  "The best thing we have along those lines is weekly claims from unemployment insurance benefits.  We've been releasing those weekly and what they show is that in the last six weeks 70,000 plus people have filed new claims for unemployment insurance.   Last year during the same seven-week period that number was about five thousand, so roughly fourteen times the normal number of people filing for unemployment insurance."

    Economists Neal Fried and Karinne Wiebold authored the article on the pandemic's impact on seasonal employment.  

    Wiebold joined Robinson on the program.   She said seasonal employment swings are head and shoulders above what is experienced in other states.  "We have a ratio of  1 point 15 jobs in our high point versus our low point which is another way of saying that we fluctuate by about 15 percent in our employment."   

    She added that the closest contenders are Wyoming, Maine, Montana, South Dakota which are much lower than Alaska.  But the ratio has improved in recent decades.  "When we look back at Alaska's early days we were much more seasonal.  We had swings that were as high as forty percent more employment during our busy periods than our slower periods.  So that has really, really mellowed out since about the early '90s.  The more volatility that we in our annual employment numbers has settled down.  That has to do with a lot of things including the maturation of our economy."

    Wiebold said business closures and restrictions will reduce employment in the coming months and travel restrictions will create further challenges making it more difficult for out of state workers to get to Alaska.

    A silver lining she said will be more opportunities for Alaskans who recently lost their jobs to find work in seasonal industries that still need workers.


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