Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - How is the economy doing in southeast Alaska?
That question was answered by Meilani Schijvens of Rain Coast Data as she gave the Southeast Alaska by the numbers 2018 report to the Greater Juneau Chamber of Commerce.
The regional population declined by 1,600 people, or 2-percent, to 72,915 residents. The labor force decreased by 54 jobs to 45,640 or 0.1-percent.
State government jobs decreased by 700 jobs, or 12 percent. There were 4,823 state employees in the region.
Other highlights included an increase of $22 million in health care wages, or 13-percent. Passenger arrivals from outside the region also increased by 173,000 people, or 13 percent.
The Visitor industry gained 160 jobs, the seafood industry lost six jobs, and southeast healthcare gained 80 jobs. Southeast mining gained 90 jobs, timber lost 12 jobs, construction lost 100 jobs, and government gained 200 jobs. The visitor industry employed 7,740, seafood 3,829, healthcare 3,426, mining 886, timber 354, and construction 1,932. Government employed 13,250 jobs. Government jobs include state, federal, city, borough and tribal.
In population, Skagway had the largest increase in population, six percent or 55 residents. Yakutat had the biggest loss of population, with 80 people lost since 2014. Thanks to a new gold mine, Hollis gained 35 new residents in the past four years. The region includes 34 communities and represents 10 percent of the Alaska economy.
The economy had employment earnings of $2.2 billion. Government was the largest employer at 35-percent. The visitor industry edged out seafood for the first time with 11 percent of the workforce. Seafood accounted for 10-percent of the work force.
The area lost jobs, earnings and population in 2016. This year they gained 380 jobs, earnings were up $17 million, but population dropped 1.2 percent or 900 people. “Two out of the three top indicators are going up so its not so bad. We are doing better and better is good,” she noted.
There are a lot jobs going to non-Alaskan residents. Juneau lost population, 1.4 percent, 450 people, lost $9 million in earnings, and were down in jobs, 1.1 percent or 200 jobs.
Schijvens said the state budget crisis has played a key role in the economic downturn. “Declining oil prices have devastated Alaska’s budget. Prices now have begun to recover.”
The state spent $14 billion from reserves in recent years. State government losses have equaled 850 jobs in our region since 2012. That represents an annual wage loss of $50 million. The price of oil hit a low of $44 per barrel. Thursday morning the price of oil was $76 per barrel. There has also been a loss of federal workers in recent years. The loss of 1,900 government and construction jobs has cost the economy $127 million in annual wages.
A saving grace has been the visitor industry. It has employed 1,900 more people, an increase of 32 percent since 2010, an annual wage of $58 million.
The jobs losses were of high paying jobs, an average of $70,000 per year plus benefits. The average visitor industry job is $30,000 per year and many have no benefits. Tourists spent $657 million in the area last year, or about $487 per day in southeast Alaska. “Tourists are flocking to southeast Alaska. Tourists coming to Alaska are going to increase by 25 percent by the end of next year.’
There was a 7 percent increase in 2018 and another 17 percent expected in 2019. 86-percent of visitors arrive by cruise ship, 11 percent by air and 3 percent by ferry. Glacier Bay was the highest rated cruise destination in the world last year. Alaska Airlines reported their best year in history in 2018 and they expect to break new records in 2019.
Mining jobs total 886 with 90 more jobs in 2017. The price of gold declined from $1,271 to $1,201 per ounce between August 2017 and August of this year.
Federal jobs were flat this year. Federal wages make up 8-percent of regional wages. Tribal jobs grew by 100 and wages increased by 16-percent last year.
The seafood industry had challenges with lower returns on salmon. Seafood employees fell by 12 percent with 3,829 jobs. The wages of seafood employees dropped by $42.5 million. The pounds of seafood processed dropped by just over five million pounds to 227.8 million pounds. Alaska fishermen will share $2.1 million in disaster relief this coming year.
The business confidence or the view of the regional business climate has dropped by 15 percent since 2015. 50 percent said they felt the economy was better, 38 percent said it was poor, and six percent very poor. Five percent said the economy was much better. In Juneau business confidence is down 24 percent since 215. 43 percent said good, and 38 percent said the economy was poor. 37-percent of business owners said the economic outlook for 2019 was the same, 27 percent predicted things would get better, and 14 percent said things would get worse.
Juneau is also number one for credit card debt in the nation with an average of $4,122 per person. Juneau also has the most expensive restaurant meal cost or $80 in the nation. Juneau is ranked the 21st best city in the US to raise a family. Juneau is ranked #1 for worst weather. Juneau has the number 4 most diversified economy in the country.
Projections for this year include reductions in seafood, state government, construction, retail and population. Visitors, healthcare, mining and tribal jobs are expected to increase in the next year.
The top priorities of the economic plan for Southeast Conference for this year are a reform project for the Alaska Marine highway system, regional energy projects, maritime workshop development, full seafood resource utilization, mariculture development, growth in southeast Alaska visitor opportunities, and securing an adequate economic timber supply.
The non-profit economy employs 4,300 jobs, about 11.5 percent, with an annual wage of $174 million or 8-percent of the region. The tourists spend $657 million on non-profits annually.
About 25-percent of southeast Alaskan workers are not residents. 74 percent of seafood processing jobs are held by out of state residents, 47 percent of mining jobs, 41 percent of accommodation and food services, and 25 percent of retail. Juneau has the highest number of non-residents working in our region, 3,941, or 19-percent.
President Mike Satre said the Chamber of Commerce is very optimistic about the future. He said a diversified economy is the key to the future. “We look forward to working on that with our assembly members and are soon to be elected representatives.”