Anchorage added 1,800 jobs in 2012

Rosemary Shinohara

The number of jobs in Anchorage increased by 1,800 in 2012, for a total of 5,000 new jobs over the last three years, Bill Popp, president of the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation, told a large crowd at the Dena'ina Civic and Convention Center on Wednesday.

"That is amazing progress in the face of what's going on in the rest of the nation," he said.

Popp talked about how the city is faring economically at an annual AEDC luncheon presentation.

Overall, he said, the city had a steady growth in wage and salary jobs last year and can expect more of the same in 2013. Anchorage is projected to add another 1,700 jobs this year, which would bring the total up to 157,900.

But Popp warned that after this year, the direction the local economy takes will depend on federal spending and on the oil industry, including a decision on oil taxes. North Slope oil production has been in decline for years. And, Popp said, "I think we will see significant cuts in federal spending."

The oil industry and federal government each make up one-third of the Anchorage economy, Popp said.

He characterized the forecast for 2014 as "foggy with a chance of continued growth."

Anchorage's unemployment rate last year was 5.6 percent, compared to 8.1 percent for the U.S. as a whole. "Five-point-six percent is for all intents and purposes full employment."

That's good for people looking for work, but sometimes a challenge for employers, Popp said. "The labor pool has sunk down to a kind of labor puddle."

Here's where the major job growth in 2012 came from, and what's anticipated for 2013:

• Professional and business services companies: Architectural and engineering firms, for example -- added 500 jobs, and are expected to produce another 400 new jobs in 2013. "It was the shining star last year," Popp said.

• State spending on roads and buildings, preliminary work in the mining industry, and oil and gas work in Cook Inlet all contributed to the increase in professional, scientific and technical work, he said.

• Health care: Jobs in health care were also up by 500 last year, and expected to grow again by an additional 400 jobs his year.

• Leisure and hospitality: This area grew by about 400 jobs in 2012, and is expected to gain another 400 in 2013. About 300 of the new jobs were in eating and drinking establishments.

• Construction: Construction is "the other big star" from 2012, Popp said, because it was the first growth year for construction since 2006. There were 300 more jobs last year, but the number of construction jobs is expected to remain flat in 2013.

• Transportation: This sector of the economy picked up 200 jobs last year and is expected to add another 100 this year.

• Oil and gas -- Oil and gas employment was up by about 100 jobs in 2012, and the AEDC forecasts no growth for 2013.

• Retail: Employment grew by 100 jobs, and is projected to grow by another 200 in 2013.

A combination of other smaller sectors, such as manufacturing and wholesale trade, is expected to account for 200 new jobs this year.

Two important sectors lost jobs in 2012:

• Financial activities: There were 200 fewer jobs last year than the year before. And AEDC expects no new jobs in 2013.

• Government: The number of government jobs dropped by 400 in 2012, about half of them federal and the rest from city government or the school district. Another 300 government jobs are forecast to be lost this year, including positions expected to be eliminated by the Anchorage School District.

Reach Rosemary Shinohara at or 257-4340.

Find the AEDC Anchorage economy report