Alaska News

Something rare happened last year to Alaska’s population: It shrank.

Alaska's population shrank slightly in 2017, its first drop since the 1980s recession.

The state's population was 737,080 on June 30, down 2,600 from a year earlier, according to figures released Wednesday by the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

The decline, about 0.4 percent, stemmed from a drop in the number of babies born in Alaska combined with nearly 50,000 people leaving the state — an exodus partially offset by 39,260 new arrivals.

It's the fifth straight year that more people left Alaska than came in, which labor department officials say is the longest stretch in state history.

The drop comes after decades of population growth that stalled in the past few years, as the national recession came to an end.

Neal Fried, an economist with the department, said the overall decline appears to be at least partially related to Alaska's own recession, which began in late 2015 amid a decline in the oil industry — one of the state's big economic drivers.

The U.S. outside of Alaska, meanwhile, has been in an economic recovery, Fried added.


"Part of these numbers are a reflection of what's happening in the rest of the country," he said. "The American economy is red-hot right now, and it's been that way for a number of years."

One place that bucked the state trend was the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, the West Virginia-size borough north of Anchorage that includes Wasilla as well as rural areas in the mountains and near the coast. Its population grew by 1,600 in the past year, to 104,000.

Nathaniel Herz

Anchorage-based independent journalist Nathaniel Herz has been a reporter in Alaska for nearly a decade, with stints at the Anchorage Daily News and Alaska Public Media. Read his newsletter, Northern Journal, at