Peninsula sheds 234 jobs from 2017–2018

The Kenai Peninsula lost about 234 jobs in the third quarter of the fiscal year compared to the year before it.

Between January 2017 and January 2018, the borough’s employment level dropped about .4 percent, according to the most recent quarterly economic report from the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District. The overall unemployment rate also rose in that time period, from 6.9 percent to 7.9 percent, as compared to 4.1 percent nationally. The statewide unemployment rate was 7.3 percent as of February, according to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

That number is down from a high of 9.4 percent in August 2017, though, said KPEDD Executive Director Tim Dillon in a presentation to the Kenai Peninsula Realtors’ Association.

“When you start looking at our unemployment rate, we are down to 7.9, which is down from 9.4 in August,” he said. “But the thing that you’ve gotta remember is still a whole point above where we were this time last year.”

Over the last five years, most of the job loss on the peninsula has come out of oil and gas extraction and mining, like the rest of the state. The manufacturing sector has also fallen significantly, as has the wholesale trade industry and public administration, according to KPEDD’s quarterly report. Sectors that have added the most jobs over the last five years include agriculture, fishing and hunting and forestry, education, health care and social assistance and accommodations and food service.

Overall, though, the peninsula has broken relatively even in total employment, according to the report — just nine total jobs lost over the last five years across all industries.

Wages have stayed relatively flat in the last year as well, though their purchasing power has increased slightly as the cost of living on the peninsula relative to the national average has decreased as well, Dillon said in his presentation.

Statewide over the last year, the gulf coast region — which includes Kodiak, the Kenai Peninsula and the Valdez-Cordova area — has fared the best economically, according to the most recent Economic Trends report from the Department of Labor. Regionwide, the Gulf Coast’s employment increased .7 percent between February 2017 and February 2018. The only other region that saw an increase was the Southwest region, which includes the Aleutian Islands and Bristol Bay, increased .5 percent. Most regions lost jobs — Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna Valley’s employment fell 1.1 percent, the North Slope’s employment fell 2 prcent, the Interior fell .7 percent and Southeast fell .3 percent, according to the report.

Retail has recently been hard hit by job losses, according to the Trends report. In 2016, the industry lost about 346 jobs, or 1 percent of total employment; in 2017, the losses doubled to 730 jobs or 2 percent of the total. The majority of the recent losses came from the larger markets, including the Kenai Peninsula Borough. According to the KPEDD quarterly report, the peninsula lost about 18 retail jobs in the last five years.

“There’s evidence these losses were due to the state’s recession rather than the growth of e-commerce because nationally, retail trade continued to grow from 2011 through 2017,” the report states.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at eearl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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