Regional Report: The West

Alaska

Alaska Employment: Less Government, More Private Sector
Traditionally dependent on public-sector employment, Alaska is moving toward a more market-oriented economy, as government spending in the 49th state continues to shrink. Federal spending contracted 4.9 percent last year and this year’s forecast calls for 3.8 percent shrinkage. Most of the spending cuts involve support for military bases. “The military is a massive player in Alaska’s economy,” says Dianne Blumer, state labor commissioner. In addition to employment on bases, “many civilian jobs are tied to the military,” she adds. In a state where 1 percent annual growth impresses, the oil and gas sector—a signature Alaskan industry—grew 3.5 percent last year, o setting jobs lost to federal cutbacks. The healthcare sector is booming, having created more than 10,000 jobs over the past decade. Leisure and hospitality jobs are also expected to grow, especially in food services and bars.

Attracting cruise ships is an economic driver. Nearly a million cruise ship passengers visited the state last year and tra c could exceed that benchmark this year, for the first time since 2008. “The Alaska visitor industry has become one of the state’s most important economic engines, bringing in new dollars from outside the state and creating a significant amount of jobs and spending,” notes the McDowell Group, which studied Alaska’s visitor industry last year. Among their findings: cruise passengers spend less in Alaska than airline passengers, on a per-person basis.