If there’s a bright spot in the recent headlines regarding Alaska’s economy, it’s this: on the Kenai Peninsula, the bad news isn’t nearly as bad as it could be.
That’s not to say that everything is coming up roses — there’s not as much work available in the oil patch as there was just a few years ago, and the effects are starting to ripple through the rest of the economy.
The Kenai Peninsula, however, continues to be better positioned than many other parts of the state to weather economic ups and downs due to its diversity. While we’re definitely feeling the slowdown in the oil and gas industry, other sectors of the peninsula’s economy are doing well. Tourism, for example, continues to bounce back from the recession in the Lower 48. Fishing remains steady, and health care is booming. Local governments are starting to feel the pinch from state budget cuts, but are well prepared to cope with changes.
According to Alyssa Rodrigues, an economist with the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, because of its diversity, the peninsula economy is doing better than the state as a whole.
“Despite the fact that the peninsula lost jobs in both 2015 and 2016, it’s still doing better than the state. … The borough is so diverse. And so there is a whole lot of trying to make something work when one industry starts to falter, other industries kind of pick up and help out to some degree,” Rodrigues said during a presentation at the Industry Outlook Forum on Wednesday.
In fact, while the peninsula suffered job losses — mostly in the oil and gad industry — wages increased by 3.3 percent, outpacing inflation.
“I don’t want to make the job loss seem small and insignificant — it is significant,” Rodrigues said. “2015, an almost 2 percent job loss, that is significant. But it is not a ‘sky is falling’ situation.”
There is an elephant in the room that needs to be addressed: if the Legislature is unable to address the state’s budget gap in the coming session, the outlook for the peninsula — and the rest of the state — gets a whole lot worse.
But while there are challenges ahead, we are fortunate to live in an area that is better prepared than most to face them.