• Client: Southeast Conference
  • Date: Sep 2019
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Southeast Alaska’s shrinking State sector is down by more than 800 jobs over 7 years. Long the top provider of wages in the region, state government is on track to be a distant third in coming years – after municipal government and tourism – and a bountiful fishing season would make the state the fourth largest provider of wages. The regional health care industry had been optimistic about the trajectory of the economic environment, adding nearly 500 jobs and $50 million in wages over the last four years to support the growing health care needs of an aging population. However, steep state cuts to Medicaid funding, compounded by the potential loss of matching federal dollars, have reversed the growing business confidence of that sector. The region’s mining sector has been growing, while the ship building and construction sectors have contracted. Fishing remains mercurial. Southeast Alaska lost nearly 700 seafood jobs in the past four years, with wages down by $22 million. By volume, the catch for 2018 was the lowest in decades, but strong seafood prices have offset losses. The so-called trade war with China is having deleterious impacts on several Southeast industries, including seafood, timber, and mining. Through all of this, the visitor industry has provided a critical counter-balance to a capricious economy. In just seven years, the tourism sector added more than 2,000 annualized jobs to Southeast communities, increasing wages by $85 million. During the summer of 2020, 1.44 million visitors are projected to spend nearly $800 million during their Southeast Alaska holidays. The collective result was a flat economy in 2018. Southeast Alaska decreased in population by 80 people, added two jobs, and overall wages grew incrementally. The region persevered through several rough years,but Southeast Alaskans are resilient and remain optimistic about the future. More than a quarter of regional businesses plan to add jobs in the coming year, and 68% of business leaders expect the coming year to be positive and/or better than last year.

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