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Business/Economy

Alaska has the highest unemployment rate in the U.S.

  • Author: Annie Zak
  • Updated: June 16
  • Published June 16

Alaska's unemployment rate is now the highest in the country.

The state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in May was 6.7 percent, according to preliminary numbers from the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

That's up just slightly from April's 6.6 percent. Nationally, the unemployment rate last month was 4.3 percent, a 16-year low.

Alaska came in at No. 51 after all other states and the District of Columbia, according to numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And though Alaska is in the grips of a recession, state economist Neal Fried said being around the very end of the list isn't a "terribly unusual" place for the state to be.

Even during non-recessionary years for us and the country, we typically have one of the higher rates in the country, even when we’re growing,” Fried said. “Even though these are seasonally adjusted, it’s very difficult to seasonally adjust Alaska’s numbers because we are so seasonal. … That contributes to a generally higher unemployment rate than most other places have, even if all states are doing relatively well including us.”

In 2014, when Alaska's economy was growing, the May seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 7 percent, and it was nearly as high in May 2013. In May 2016, the rate was 6.6 percent.

"It's kind of counterintuitive that the rate hasn't increased more," Fried said.

Alaska lost about 6,000 jobs between May 2016 and last month, according to the state Labor Department. The oil and gas sector "continued to show the largest over-the-year losses, followed closely by construction, professional and business services, and state government." Most sectors lost jobs compared to the same month last year, but health care and leisure and hospitality gained.

In April, New Mexico was the only other state that had a higher unemployment rate than Alaska. Last month, Colorado and North Dakota had the lowest rates of unemployment at 2.3 percent and 2.5 percent respectively.

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