A sign advertising job openings is seen at the Soldotna Post Office on June 27, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Clarion file)

A sign advertising job openings is seen at the Soldotna Post Office on June 27, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Clarion file)

Region sees some economic recovery; job numbers still lag overall

The Kenai Peninsula reported 500 more jobs in November 2021 compared to November 2020.

Alaska had about 7,200 more jobs in November than during the same time in 2020, the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development announced last week. Most of the gains were seen in the leisure and hospitality industry, which had about 3,200 more jobs this November than last — a 12.9% increase.

When compared to data from November 2019, however, most industries still reported losses. In all, Alaska lost about 13,100 jobs when November 2021 is compared to November 2019. Despite seeing gains over the last year, the leisure and hospitality industry lost about 3,700 jobs. The oil and gas industry lost about 3,100 jobs and local governments lost about 2,200 jobs between November 2019 and November 2021.

The same report showed that the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s unemployment rate — not seasonally adjusted — changed from 7.9% in November 2020, to 6.1% in October 2021, to 6.5% last month, according to preliminary data. The same data showed that the Gulf Coast Region’s unemployment rate went from 7.5% in November 2020, to 6.1% in October 2021, to 6.7% in November 2021.

The Gulf Coast region, which includes the Kenai Peninsula Borough, the Kodiak Island Borough and the Valdez-Cordova Census Area, lagged behind other regions in Alaska for regional job change. The Kenai Peninsula reported 500 more jobs in November 2021 compared to November 2020.

That is compared to Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna region, which reported 5,300 more jobs in November 2021 compared to November 2020 and the Interior and Southeast regions, which both reported 1,000 more jobs in November 2021 than in November 2020.

Multiple businesses across the central Kenai Peninsula reported struggling with worker shortages in spring of 2021. As of May 2021, more than $1.2 billion in federal and state COVID-19 relief benefits have been granted to Alaskans since March of 2020, according to previous Clarion reporting.

The state-specific Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, showed that Alaska lost about 38,800 jobs in April of 2020, the “largest monthly loss on record,” as reported by the department of labor in the December 2021 issue of Alaska Economic Trends.

“Despite these numbers’ severity, they aren’t a surprise during a pandemic,” the article said. “A lack of job openings usually signals a weak labor market where employment is falling or stagnant and unemployment is high, which was true as COVID-19 took hold last spring.”

The Alaska Department of Labor’s full report can be found on the agency’s website at labor.alaska.gov.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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