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Business/Economy

Alaska’s unemployment rate didn’t change in October, but the state is still losing jobs

  • Author: Annie Zak
  • Updated: November 17, 2017
  • Published November 17, 2017

October was the third month in a row that Alaska's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate stayed at 7.2 percent.

The rate was still higher than it was in October of last year, when it was 6.6 percent, the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development said Friday.

Alaska's total employment was down about 1.3 percent last month compared to October 2016, which factors out to a loss of about 4,100 jobs.

"While the state continues to shed jobs," the labor department said in a statement, "over-the-year losses have gradually slowed in 2017."

There's not a "particularly easy answer" for why the unemployment rate would stay the same while the state continues to lose jobs, said Karinne Wiebold, an economist at the labor department.

"The labor force is made up of folks working or actively looking for work. If workers move from Alaska to the Lower 48, they would no longer be considered part of our labor force or unemployed in Alaska, even if they lost their job here," Wiebold said in an email. "Some of the job losses may be second jobs, in which case the person may still be employed at their primary job. Some losses may be retirements."

She added that October's unemployment rate is preliminary and subject to revision.

Oil and gas jobs fell 7.8 percent from October of last year, and construction jobs were down 7.2 percent, according to numbers from the labor department. Jobs in the health care sector grew by 2 percent. The biggest job loss in the current downturn was in the fall of 2016.

The national unemployment rate last month was 4.1 percent. Alaska still had the highest unemployment rate of any state in October, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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