Last year was a tough year for the Southeast Alaska economy. Jobs and workforce earnings were down for the first time since 2007. Population dropped for the second year in a row, the first losses in a decade as well. The reason for our economic distress is clear. Dropping oil prices combined with falling oil production have drastically reduced the state’s share of oil earnings, which previously provided up to 90 percent of the state’s unrestricted revenues. Last year was also the worst year for our seafood sector in over a decade. However, there is also good news. Tourism is booming, and 2017 will be a record year for cruise and air passengers, along with jobs and spending.
If it weren’t for state government’s impending fiscal meltdown, the region would be well positioned for a prosperous future.
The last five years have been good to Southeast Alaska. People came here in droves, to visit and to live. Our overall population increased by 4% as 2,730 new people joined our ranks. We broke records in terms of visitors arriving by airplane, and 2016 could be our top year ever for total passenger arrivals by all modes. Since 2010, we added nearly 2,000 jobs and $308 million in total workforce earnings, and 2015 was a record year for regional employment and earnings.
This publication tells two stories about the regional economy: a positive tale of five-year trends, and a more sobering one-year analysis and future forecast. Over the last five years we added 2,600 people and 1,500 jobs to our economy. Total workforce earnings increased by $275 million, with most of that coming from the private sector ($209 million). With the exception of government, nearly every sector flourished. New jobs and investments occurred in the areas of seafood, tourism, mining, construction, healthcare, maritime, and energy. However, data from the last year especially indicates a contraction. Between 2013 and 2014 there were few areas of growth, and many indicators trended slightly downwards. Our population declined by 30 people. Jobs fell by 300, mostly in the areas of government, construction, and health care. There were 34,000 fewer cruise and ferry visitors to the region. The value of seafood harvested in the region fell by $92 million. The price of gold fell by 10%. Early 2015 job reports show more losses on the way. The most concerning signal is the long-term strength of our government, which accounts for more than a third of all workforce earnings in the region.
This year the report provides a one-year snapshot of regional economic and socioeconomic trends. It shows that while the economy of Southeast Alaska has been in an expansion phase since 2008, in 2013 that growth leveled off. The 12-page overview provides analysis on demographics, employment, and earnings; the maritime, visitor, seafood, mining, timber, and health care industries; along with public sector developments.
The 2013 report provides a two-year snapshot of the Southeast Alaska economic and socioeconomic trends.