Bill Popp, the head of the Anchorage Economic Development Corp., told a crowd at the organization's annual luncheon on Wednesday to expect additional job losses in Alaska's largest city through 2018.
Statewide employment losses, which kicked off Alaska's current recession, began in 2015 after oil prices plummeted and oil companies began laying off workers. The loss of oil revenue ate deeply into the state budget and lawmakers have yet to come up with a way to keep the state solvent over the long term.
In conjunction with the release of a three-year outlook from his organization, Popp told his audience of 1,500 that the recession's extension through a second, and likely third, year was due to a failure by lawmakers in Juneau to agree on a lasting fiscal plan. He has said in the past that a mix of revenue-raising, use of the Permanent Fund and cuts to government spending should all be part of such a plan.
"We should not be in this situation," Popp said. "The further we prolong this uncertainty with our state budget, the more potential investment dollars we lose that could otherwise flow into our local economy."
He said the unpredictable climate has only encouraged businesses to sit on their cash because there's uncertainty about whether new taxes on income or sales, for example, will need to be factored into their investment decisions.
The Anchorage Economic Development Corp., a nonprofit, promotes economic growth and diversification with support from government and the private sector.