Alaska News

Alaska's population was flattening even before it began shedding jobs

The latest round of population estimates from the state shows Alaska's growth rate was flattening due to stronger job growth in the Lower 48 and other factors even before the state's current economic slowdown.

The statewide headcount stalled at about 737,000 people in both 2014 and 2015, disrupting a pattern of more than two decades of modest but steady population growth.

"Generally the population is staying flat. And that's remarkable," state demographer Eddie Hunsinger said Thursday. "State population not increasing is something we haven't seen in a couple decades."

The period of flat growth started before job cuts in oil and gas, construction and state government began dragging down employment numbers, according to data from the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

"There are a lot of factors in play and they wouldn't be attributable to big employment drops in Alaska," Hunsinger said. "The economy down south was doing well and that's a factor."

Anchorage's population dropped slightly in 2015 for the second year in a row, according to state estimates. A lower military population and migration to the Mat-Su and Kenai Peninsula boroughs, where real estate tends to be less expensive, are among the reasons for the drop, according to Hunsinger.

After hitting a historic peak of just over 301,000 in 2013, Anchorage's population fell to about 299,000 in 2015. There is recent precedent for the decline; in 2007, the state's largest city lost about 700 people.