Alaska job numbers were up in June but still below pre-pandemic levels

JUNEAU — Alaska had about 17,000 more jobs last month than it did in June 2020, with most industries seeing gains over that period but still falling below pre-pandemic levels, a report released Friday by the state labor department shows.

The state had about 30,600 fewer jobs last month than in June 2019, according to the report.

Industries hard-hit during 2020 saw big gains in the new report, the department said. For example, there were 4,500 more jobs in leisure and hospitality last month than a year earlier and 4,200 more in the trade, transportation and utilities sector.

However, there were 11,300 fewer jobs in leisure and hospitality last month than in June 2019 and 6,300 fewer in trade, transportation and utilities, according to the report.

Health care employment and construction were up from June 2020 and equaled their June 2019 numbers. Manufacturing, which the department said is mainly seafood processing, had 1,200 more jobs last month than a year earlier and 100 fewer than in June 2019.

Whether Alaska is in a recession “is a natural question but not one that we are focused on,” said Karinne Wiebold, a state labor department economist, in an email.

[Mat-Su, a pandemic ‘outlier,’ lost few jobs in 2020. Some sectors even gained workers.]


The COVID-19 pandemic “was such a singular shock to the economy that the employment effects are really not like a traditional recession. It will take a while to see if the economy rebounds from the shock in a relatively short time after the pandemic has passed, or if employment remains depressed,” she wrote. The pandemic is not over nationally or internationally, “so the economy continues to feel the pressure.”

According to the department, oil and gas was the only major sector with significantly fewer jobs last month than a year ago. The 6,200 jobs reported last month were 900 fewer than a year earlier and 3,800 fewer than in June 2019.

Wiebold said employment in oil and gas peaked in 2014, with an annual average of 14,800 jobs. As Alaska came through a recession set off by low oil prices that spanned between 2015 and 2018, the annual average for jobs in oil and gas was at 9,900, she said. Then the pandemic hit.

“At this point, it looks like we may have hit the floor, but time will tell,” she said of jobs in the sector.

Becky Bohrer, Associated Press

Becky Bohrer is a reporter for the Associated Press based in Juneau.