December Unemployment Rate Down, Yet Alaskans Quit in Record Numbers
Alaska’s unemployment rate went down in December compared to the previous month.
The state Department of Labor & Workforce Development puts the seasonally adjusted rate at 5.7 percent in December, a slight decrease from the 6 percent of November and lower than the level of unemployment Alaska saw in 2017 and 2018.
A Job Seeker’s Market
For all of 2021, Alaska stood out as the state with the highest rate of workers voluntarily leaving their jobs. The annual quit rate was 3.8 percent, or 115,000 total quits, up 0.9 percent compared to 2020. The portion of quits out of total separations (which includes involuntary layoffs) has been climbing to a record rate nationwide; in Alaska, they accounted for 63.9 percent of all workplace separations.
Figures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics for November show a nationwide quit rate of 3 percent, tying the record from September. The accommodation and food services sector had the highest rate of quits, followed by retail trade and arts, entertainment, and recreation.
The nationwide unemployment rate in December was 3.9 percent.
Alaskans choosing to leave jobs must be finding new work right away. The total number of jobs in Alaska is higher than in December 2020 but lags 2019 by about 12,400. December’s job count was up 2.4 percent compared to a year earlier, an increase of 8,000 jobs compared to the same month in 2020.
The sectors furthest behind their pre-pandemic levels are leisure and hospitality, down by 4,500 jobs; oil and gas, down by 3,000; mining and logging, down by 2,700; and local government (including public schools and tribal government), down by 2,200 since November 2019.
The only sectors with a net increase of jobs since 2019 are federal government (excluding military) and manufacturing, gaining 400 and 800 jobs, respectively. The retail sector has regained all the losses since December 2019.
The rate in Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough was a combined 4.8 percent, down from 6.3 percent a year before. Unemployment in the Interior held steady at 4.9 percent, and Southeast Alaska was also flat at 5.1 percent, month to month. Winter oil activity lowered monthly unemployment in the Northern region from 8.1 to 7.4 percent in December.
A few regions now have higher unemployment rates than in November 2020: the Valdez-Cordova Census Area rose to 8.2 percent, the Denali Borough rose to 14.5, the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area up to10.1, and the Kusilvak Census Area in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta rose to 16.2, higher than 15.1 percent a year before.