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Growing Alaska

One state industry grows leaps above others, and trend is expected to continue


Do you know what Alaska’s fastest growing industry is?

Do you know what industry has created 10,000 new Alaska jobs in the past 10 years?

Do you know what industry is in need of employees, with a demand that is growing as fast as summer grass during rainy season?

If you guessed the health care industry you are correct.

I read with interest August 2011’s Alaska Economic Trends, put out by the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development on the growing health care industry in the state. You can read it, too. Just go online to http://labor.alaska.gov/trends/ and you will have a wealth of information on every industry imaginable before you. This is public information that you can share and reshare, and a good way to learn statistically about state industries.

In an introductory letter to the August health care issue, Alaska Commissioner Click Bishop says: “Entities across Alaska are focused on the human pipeline we’ll need to fill the jobs in this expanding industry …. To meet employer demand, we will continue to develop ways to help Alaskans pursue careers in this growing industry.”

Helping to achieve this goal is the Alaska Health Workforce Planning Coalition, The Alaska Workforce Investment Board, The University of Alaska system, AVTEC, Cook Inlet Tribal Council and more.

Last year, according to the report, about 9 percent of Alaska jobs were in the health care industry. It’s the state’s fourth largest industry, provides 31,800 jobs, and has a payroll of $1.53 billion. It outpaces all other state industries. And the trend – it’s probably going to continue.

According to the quantitative report, forecasted growth for the next 10 years is at 26.1 percent, with an addition of 7,000 jobs.

Why? When I first arrived to Anchorage in 1986, the median age was in the 20s – if I remember correctly. Well Alaska has grown up and there is an increasing population of senor citizens and baby boomers edging up in years. This will likely increase demands for services.

We’ve seen nine years of growth in the industry, and nearly one out of every 10 jobs is in health care. Surprisingly, most recipients of service – a whopping 81 percent, have some type of health care insurance. This is leaps above the national norm.

With medical costs rising, the U.S. has the most expensive health care system in the world, the report stated. Alaska spends more per capita in this industry than most other states – only outpaced by Maine and Vermont. And we have dozens of hospitals statewide to choose from, the largest, based on average monthly employment, are Providence Health & Services, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, Southcentral Foundation, Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp., Alaska Regional Hospital and Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium.

“Hospitals are the largest employers in Alaska’s health care industry, accounting for 40 percent of health care jobs. They are also among the largest employers in the state,” wrote authors Erik Stimpfle, research analyst, and Dean Rasmussen, economist. “Alaska has 26 licensed hospitals of various sizes in 20 communities.”

It’s obvious where part of Alaska’s future lies. If you haven’t found a career yet, or are looking for a new one, think health care in Alaska.

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