Clarion file photo Dr. Craig Humphreys talks about how the O-arm takes the 3D images it produces as a spine surgery aid in late July 2011 at Central Peninsula Hospital. Health care is one of the fastest growing sectors of the Kenai Peninsula economy.

Clarion file photo Dr. Craig Humphreys talks about how the O-arm takes the 3D images it produces as a spine surgery aid in late July 2011 at Central Peninsula Hospital. Health care is one of the fastest growing sectors of the Kenai Peninsula economy.

Kenai Peninsula economic outlook slowed, but steady

  • By DAN BALMER
  • Sunday, February 16, 2014 4:33pm
  • News

While job growth has risen steadily that past few years, a state economist predicts a slight decrease in job growth for the Kenai Peninsula in 2014.

Alyssa Shanks, economist for the Alaska Department of Labor presented her projections at a Kenai Chamber of Commerce luncheon on January 15. Compared to 2013, in which job growth rose nearly 5 percent, she estimated a conservative 2 percent this year.

Shanks said she doesn’t like to overestimate with big expectations.

“I tend to be more conservative in my forecast,” she said. “I would hate to puff someone up and let them down.”

Overall jobs growth has trended up the past three years, from 1.7 percent in 2011, to three percent in 2012, she said. Despite the predicted decrease for 2014, it is still a better rate than the rest of the state. Statewide job growth is projected to be 0.4 percent, down from 0.5 in 2013.

The increase in oil and gas activity in the Cook Inlet in the last few years has shown up in the numbers, Shanks said. While oil and gas jobs lead the way, health care is the fastest growing occupation, she said.

“Oil remains a big piece of the pie,” she said. “But health care’s slice keeps getting bigger.”

Construction, local government and tourism round out the top five work forces on the peninsula, she said. Kenai Peninsula residents earn an average of $43,258 annually, ranked eighth among boroughs and below the state average, she said.

Shanks said the leisure and hospitality industry continues to play a large role in the Kenai Peninsula economy.

“The Kenai Peninsula has been dubbed Alaska’s Playground and that reputation has rung true,” she said. “The attraction of the Kenai River alone brings a lot of money in.”

While the summer tourism season brings in droves of people from Anchorage, the numbers show population growth on the peninsula is larger than Anchorage and the Mat-Su Valley. Shanks said the population growth in the Kenai Peninsula from 2010-2013 was 1.07 percent. This year the projection increases to 2.34 percent.

One factor to the population growth may be that the Kenai Peninsula Borough has the most affordable home prices in the state with an average price $239,469, Shanks said.

With health care jobs growing, reasonable home prices and plenty of tourist attractions, the numbers suggest the peninsula has become one of the largest growing retirement communities in the state, she said.

“It has been thought of as a draw for retirees, and to some degree we see that in the data, she said. “The Peninsula tends to have a larger older population than other places in the state.”

The borough’s tax structure for seniors may also play a factor. An ordinance that would have put a cap on property tax exemptions for residents 65 and older was voted down in January by the borough assembly.

The unemployment rate in the Kenai Peninsula is trending downward just under 8 percent, but that is higher than the state average of 6.5 percent, according to state figures.

Shanks said one of the most interesting facts about the peninsula’s economy is where it comes from. The 20,258 people that live and work in the Kenai Peninsula Borough, bringing in $279.4 million net gain.

A lot of people live here, but work in other parts of the state, she said.

Of those who live, but don’t work here, 1,900 people work in the North Slope, while another 1,738 work in the Anchorage area.

“For several years, the Kenai has brought in more income than it has let out,” she said. “The people who leave the Kenai to go and work somewhere else make more money and bring more money back, than people who take their wages here and go home with them.”

One of the largest employers is the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District with 839 teachers. Retail is made up of 783 people, engineers 424 and construction accounts for 400 jobs. Shanks said the fastest growing occupation for people with a bachelor’s degree or higher is in the health care and education sector.

Shanks said the fishing industry is a difficult one to analyze because the commercial side is in one bracket and sports fisherman fall into tourism. She said there is a ton of data the state would like to have, it is just a matter of knowing where to obtain it.

“That would be a fascinating project,” she said.

Reach Dan Balmer at daniel.balmer@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

Former Democratic state Rep. Beth Kerttula holds up a sign reading "Vot No Con Con," during a Saturday rally at the Dimond Courthouse Plaza in Juneau. Opposition to a constitutional convention, which could alter the Alaska State Constitution to allow for banning abortions was a frequent topic during the protest. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Constitutional convention ballot question in November becomes focus in Alaska’s abortion fight

Abortion rights supporters urge ‘no’ votes on question, while abortion opponents seek changes to constitution

Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, arrives to testify as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol continues to reveal its findings of a year-long investigation, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, June 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Aide: Trump dismissed Jan. 6 threats, wanted to join crowd

Cassidy Hutchinson, a little-known former White House aide, described an angry, defiant president that day

Gov. Mike Dunleavy signs Alaska’s fiscal year 2023 operating and capital budgets into law on Tuesday, June 28, 2022, in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s office)
Dunleavy signs budget

$3,200 in payments to Alaskans, money for local projects included

In this April 11, 2018 photo state Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, walks out of the Senate chambers and to a reception to honor him and Sen. Berta Gardner, D-Anchorage, at the Capitol. Both were retiring from the legislature. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Dennis Egan, former state lawmaker and Juneau mayor, dies

He fought hard to keep the capital in Juneau

Haze can be seen on the horizon from North Kenai Beach on Tuesday, June 28, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. An air quality advisory was issued for Southcentral Alaska on Tuesday, triggered by ongoing wildfires in the southwest that have produced increased levels of smoke in the region. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Air quality advisory issued for Southcentral

The advisory was triggered by ongoing wildfires in the southwest that have produced increased levels of smoke

Bradley Walters leads the pack up Angle Hill on Wednesday, July 18, 2018, at the Salmon Run Series at Tsalteshi Trails. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Summer races kick off at Tsalteshi

The annual Salmon Run Series 5K races start on July 6 and continue every Wednesday through Aug. 3

Central Emergency Services staff wait to receive doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Assembly mulls bond for new CES fire station

Replacement of the current station is estimated to cost $16.5 million

Buldozers sit outside of the former Kenai Bowling Alley on Thursday, June 23, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Old Kenai bowling alley comes down

The business closed in 2015

Most Read