Alaska Economic Trends
Alaska Economic Trends is a monthly magazine that covers a range of economic topics.
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Alaska Economic Trends are searchable from 1961 to the present using the Trends search page. The search can include any combination of the following: Key Words, Date Range, Author, Category
Nearly 19,000 wage and salary employees work in Alaska's private sector transportation and warehousing industry. This is more than construction, oil, information, and a number of other industries. Fourteen of the state's top 100 private sector employers are involved in transportation. The industry generates more than $3.3 billion in annual revenues. Public sector transportation is also important and includes the high profile Alaska Marine Highway and Alaska Railroad. Impressive as these facts may be, the real value of transportation lies in its contributions to the rest of the economy. Transportation weaves the web that ties Alaska's economy together and binds it to the world.
Resources, historical events, and human desire have combined to shape the population of Alaska. Historic demographic trends do create a reality that guides future events. However, there is no crystal ball that allows us to foretell the future. While the recent past is our best guide to the future, things never turn out quite as predicted. The large 'baby boom' population that has dominated demographics for the last 30 years is a force that will continue to influence Alaska's future.
A laska's Northern Region covers more than 146 thousand square miles or approximately a quarter of all the land area of Alaska. This huge piece of real estate contains only 24,000 individuals, or less than four percent of the state's population. Its inventory of natural resources includes the nation's largest oil fields, a resource that has generated more wealth for the state than any other single source. It was the site of the state's largest gold rush, and currently is home to the world's largest zinc mine. Geographically, it includes the North Slope and Northwest Arctic Boroughs and the Nome Census Area with a total of 35 communities. Only three of these communities have more than a thousand residents.
The streak goes on. For the seventeenth consecutive year Alaska added jobs to its economy in 2004. The year's average monthly job count of 304,000 was an increase of 4,700 over 2003 and marked the first time the state climbed above the 300,000 mark. A historical look shows Alaska surpassed 200,000 jobs in 1982 and 100,000 in 1972. Only three other states, all in the sun belt, can claim to have at least tripled their job count since 1972: Nevada, Arizona, and Florida.
Alaska has recorded a net job increase every year since 1988, an impressive streak that reached seventeen years in 2004. Given the inertia of such long-running, consistent growth, a shift in direction is unlikely, absent a significant shock to one of the fundamental drivers of the state's economy. Growth of 1.5 percent is forecast for 2005, followed by 1.4 percent in 2006.
If each of Alaska's workers was employed in one job continuously throughout his working life, then the task of understanding the labor market would be simple. However, we all know the labor market is much more fluid. Workers are hired and separate from jobs continuously throughout the year. Some workers are employed in multiple jobs consecutively or concurrently over time. Some work only seasonally, and some come from other parts of the country and from around the world to work in Alaska.
The high cost of living in Alaska is part of the state's folklore, but the stories are based on economic reality. In the state's early days, transportation costs and a limited ability to produce goods locally led to exorbitant prices for everything from housing to basic grocery items. As the state's population grew and infrastructure developed, costs moderated substantially but remained signifi cantly higher than the national average.
In May 2005 the Department of Defense recommended to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) the virtual closure of Eielson Air Force Base, located 26 miles southeast of Fairbanks. The Defense Department recommended the withdrawal of 2,821 uniformed personnel and a transfer of the aircraft inventory of the 354th Fighter Wing to Nevada, Georgia and Louisiana. According to military sources, high operational and infrastructure costs put Eielson AFB on their realignment list. The base has a more than 60-year presence in the Fairbanks area and has been a solid foundation in the local economy.
Although Alaska's information industry is small - it employs only 2 percent of the state's wage and salary work force - it is the third-highest paying industry in the state, behind only natural resources/ mining and construction. It is also one of the most dynamic. Technological changes, market conditions and the relatively recent deregulation of the telecommunications industry have transformed the landscape for most information sector employers. And more changes are likely.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 86,000 Alaskans age 5 and over - 15 percent of Alaska's population - have a disability. Of those, 58,000 are of working age, 16 to 64, according to its 2003 American Community Survey.
Alaskans earned a combined $22.6 billion in 2004, an increase of slightly more than $1 billion from 2003, according to the most recent income data for the state. Dividing that number by the number of residents - every man, woman and child - means that Alaska's per capita income was $34,454. That's an impressive figure, but it only takes on real meaning when compared to other states or when observed in a historical context. And this particular income figure is only one measure among many calculations of income.
The Matanuska-Susitna Borough's economic indicators all tell the same story: They describe the fastest growing area in the state. Growth measures including employment, population, business formation, in-migration, highway counts and new homes being built all point to the Mat-Su Borough. In fact, it's the only area in the state where the term 'booming' is applicable.