Alaska adds jobs, still down from a year ago

JUNEAU (AP) - Alaska had 19,100 more jobs in April than it did the same month in 2020, but the numbers still lagged what they were before the pandemic, the state labor department reported last Friday.

There were an estimated 297,200 nonfarm jobs in Alaska last month, compared to 278,100 in April 2020 but down from 322,400 in April 2019, the report shows.

The unemployment rate in Alaska was 6.7% in April versus the national rate of 6.1%.

The unemployment rate in Wrangell was 7.6%, a big improvement from 12.9% a year ago.

The report provides a comparison to April 2020, the first month in which huge job losses hit as pandemic fears prompted business closures and restrictions. The department said industries that recovered the largest numbers of jobs last month were those that took the biggest hits last spring, such as leisure and hospitality, which last month had 6,300 more jobs than a year earlier.

Retail gained 3,400 jobs, and education and health care had 4,600 more jobs last month than in April 2020, the report said.

On the other end, the oil and gas sector had 2,600 fewer jobs last month than in April 2020, and mining and logging had 1,800 fewer workers.

The health care sector has recovered to pre-pandemic, the report states.

State Labor Commissioner Tamika L. Ledbetter last week said the economy is showing positive signs as she announced the state will stop participating next month in a federal program that provides an extra $300 a week in unemployment aid. Ledbetter said there were more job openings than applicants.

Some legislators have raised concerns with the decision. The state Senate last week included in its version of the budget $10 million for one-time bonuses of $1,200 to residents with an unemployment insurance claim as of May 19 who later accept full-time work in Alaska, with the intent that such bonuses would be paid after four weeks of work.

The proposal also calls for one-time bonuses of $600 for those who take part-time work, with the same conditions.

The Senate and the House passed different versions of the budget last week and are working to reconcile and come up with a single spending plan acceptable to a majority of legislators.


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