State labor report shows job gains after 3 years of losses

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Recent job gains after three years of losses could signal the end of Alaska’s recession, according to a recent state labor department report.

Revisions to 2018 figures showed the state saw year-over-year job growth for seven straight months starting in October, the report states. The Anchorage Daily News reported the department revises job numbers after releasing initial estimates.

The growth was small, in most months less than a 0.5% gain from the same month the prior year. But Karinne Wiebold, an economist with the department, said it strengthens the case that the economy is recovering.

The numbers remain subject to change, and Wiebold said it’s too early to say the downturn is truly over.

But she said one thing “that makes this pretty solid-looking is we’re seeing it across sectors, and we understand where the growth is coming from.”

Construction showed some of the earliest growth. The oil and gas industry and health care also have seen sustained growth.

The recession, which began in 2015, is the longest Alaska has seen, though it wasn’t on the level of an economic crash that occurred in the 1980s.

In the fourth quarter of last year, wages grew faster in Alaska than they did for the U.S. as a whole, the report said. But that could be more an indication of a Lower 48 economy cooling than a sign that growth in Alaska is taking off.

“When we’re talking about year-over-year changes, our recovery is going to look better than somebody else’s sustained growth,” Wiebold said. “It’s a good sign, it’s one of several good signs, but my suspicion is it’s mostly a math situation.”