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Alaska job figures hard to pin down

Suzanna Caldwell
Aaron Jansen illustration

Depending on who you ask, Alaska either lost jobs or gained jobs over the last year.

New numbers out from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows Alaska down 3,300 jobs over last year, marking Alaska as the only state to lose jobs in 2013.

North Dakota, with its booming Bakken oil fields, was the top state in growth, according to the report. The Peace Garden State added 17,500 jobs in the time between November 2012 and November 2013. Using the labor data, the Washington Post declared it one of nine winning states for 2013.

But before Alaskans rush to wondering to where all the jobs went, Dan Robinson, chief researcher for the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, said to remember that the national numbers are estimates that are likely subject to change.

“These numbers are produced fairly robotically,” he said. “These preliminary estimates are quite volatile.”

Robinson said Alaska has actually seen job some growth over the last year. For the first half of 2013, monthly employment grew 0.5 percent. While the final numbers for 2013 haven't been compiled yet, Robinson expects that growth to remain steady through the end of the year. He said there would have been signs if more jobs were eliminated.

“We're unsure what 2013 will show,” he said. “But it sure wouldn't show 4,000 jobs lost.”

Robinson said overall, jobs at the federal level and in local government are down, in part to tighter budgets and sequestration, while jobs in private industry and oil and gas appear to be up.

In November, unemployment in Alaska was at 6.5 percent -- unchanged from October and still below the national rate of 7 percent.

In Anchorage, Alaska's largest city, unemployment is lower than the state average, at 4.7 percent in October, according to statistics from the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation. The same report shows 1,000 jobs have been added since 2012. According to the report, 1,840 private sector jobs were added in the same period, however, 840 government jobs were cut.

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