AD Main Menu

Thoughts on Alaska's winter economics and Seward's Day

Amanda Coyne
Aaron Jansen illustration

Did the long winter help or hurt Alaska's economy? Those in the know took the day off.

Both The Week and this blog have interesting stories about how a warm winter for the Lower 48 has boosted the economy. When it's warmer, the pieces say, workers are able to get to work, aren't laid off for weather-related reasons (unless they're snow-truck drivers). The construction industry likes it, heating bills are lower, retail sales jump and cities save on costly snow removal and weather-related response services.

It also may be that warmer, happier people spend more money than shivering, vitamin D starved people. That, however, is just a theory coming from one, vitamin D-starved Alaskan who has gone through one of the coldest, snowiest winters in history, which weather prognosticators believe could turn into a chilly, snowy break-up season.

Another vitamin D starved Alaskan, with children, said she thinks she spends more when it's cold because she has to get the kids out of the house.

These are just theories for the moment. And they will remain theories because those in the know who work for the state took Monday off. Turns out, Monday was a state holiday, Seward's Day, named after one William Henry Seward, secretary of state to President Abraham Lincoln, who decided it a good idea that the U.S. buy the Alaska territory from Russia. It was an idea for which he was much derided.

Nonetheless, the deal -- Seward's folly, Seward's icebox -- went down on March 30, 1867. And now, many government workers get the day off in celebration, on the state's dime, which likely isn't good for Alaska's economy, unless those workers are off spending money somewhere. Buying vitamin D perhaps, preparing for the long, messy break-up.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amanda(at)alaskadispatch.com