The entrance to the Kenai Peninsula Job Center is seen here in Kenai, Alaska on April 15, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

The entrance to the Kenai Peninsula Job Center is seen here in Kenai, Alaska on April 15, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Alaska’s economic downturn continues

Both job numbers and unemployment showing significant changes from last year.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the state’s economy, with both job numbers and unemployment showing significant changes from last year.

Alaska’s job count for the month of May was down 12.2%, or 40,900 jobs, from the same time last year, according to a Friday press release from the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

The job count is the total number of people employed in a given industry and is calculated by the department of labor each month to gauge the state of Alaska’s economy.

Every major industry in Alaska reported fewer people employed in May 2020 compared to May of 2019, according to the press release.

Employment in the leisure and hospitality industry has been hit the hardest, with 15,300 fewer jobs in May 2020 compared to last year. There were 2,900 fewer jobs in the health care industry, which the department attributes to the suspension of nonurgent care in response to the pandemic. Retail employment was down by 2,600 jobs, and the transportation, warehousing and utilities industry lost 2,700 jobs, mostly in transportation.

Local government, including public schools, saw a job reduction of 6,200. State government employment also declined by 1,000 jobs due to losses in general revenue and cuts within the University of Alaska system. With the slowdown of the 2020 census, federal employment was also down by 200 in the state.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough saw slight improvement in its unemployment rate between April and May, but the borough’s preliminary unemployment rate for May is still at 14.2%, more than double the rate in 2019 (6.2%), according to data from the department of labor’s Research and Analysis Section.

Statewide, the seasonally adjusted unemployment was at 12.6% in May, a slight reduction compared to April’s unemployment rate of 13.5%. Alaska’s unemployment rate is also slightly better than the national average, which was 13.3% in May.

Reach reporter Brian Mazurek at bmazurek@peninsulaclarion.com

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