Alaska 2024 Jobs Outlook: Are these Alaskan Jobs?

Does a look at forecasted jobs in 2024 tell us anything about the future prospects for Alaska and Alaskan’s, or is it telling us more about our past?

Today’s ADN share’s news about the 2024 “jobs” forecast created by the State and reported in the January Trends report, but I can’t figure out if these are Alaskan Jobs.

While its hard to not like seeing more “jobs” I’m left wondering what these really are. Is an Alaskan getting a job? Is an Alaskan advancing in their career to one of these jobs? Is an Alaskan high school graduate seeing a promising new career opportunity?

Or, are we keeping the 737 seats full with temporary, shift, and seasonal workers, and continuing the alaska “disconnect”?

I’m skipping a lot of interesting detail you’ll find in the reports that came out this week: Alaska job growth, driven by big projects, expected to put employment at pre-COVID levels by Yereth Rosen and reported in the ADN today after initially being published by the Alaska Beacon which offers a summary of the new State of Alaska January TRENDS report on 2024 employment forecasting.

I am intrigued by these jobs’ implications for Alaska, our communities, and the residents. This topic is particularly timely with the upcoming AEDC luncheon, where the job data will be presented to the Anchorage business sector.

First, I want to note a grey area here on “jobs” vs. “employment.” I expect there are nuances I’m missing but I generally understand that the State of Alaska is forecasting and tracking employment because employers report positions and associated wages that must pay unemployment insurance. There are many more jobs created that are not reported, such as 1099 contract positions that employ local and remote workers, startup company founders, remote workers, and sole proprietors or owners who “work” but are not reported as employees or as “job.” It’s long been a challenge for startups and innovation-related employers to be overlooked in counting “jobs” and economic impact until they grow large enough to have employees or pay corporate taxes. In our state, which doesn’t tax individuals or pass-through entities, our reporting misses reporting on our emerging economy and associated growth sectors.

The Beacon article and the January TREND report, focused on a recovery to pre-pandemic levels. I appreciate that the article noted that a focus on 2019 overlooks longer-term significant population and job losses, the decline in working-age adults, high-wage oil and gas employment, and Alaska’s decline in gross domestic product over the past decade.

It’s vital to recognize that 2019 was not a peak in our economic or employment history, and a “recovery” to a 2019 level, is hardly telling us about the future.

In Alaska, where we no longer have a head tax or income tax, the definition and impact of a “job” merit deeper examination. This brings to mind the “Alaska Disconnect,” a term ISER coined two decades ago. It illustrates how a job can cost the state more in civic and public expenses than its economic benefits. Thus, celebrating job creation without considering the broader implications might obscure the reality of our situation.

Moreover, the current job figures don’t sufficiently indicate whether our economy is improving or continuing its decade-long decline. They also don’t clarify who these jobs employ – Alaskans, newcomers, or 737/transitory workers – and the nature of these roles. Are they long-term, career-building positions or short-term, project-specific ones? Do they employ existing Alaskan residents and offer them career-advancing new positions, or attract new residents who will establish roots in our community, or are they temporary, transient roles?

The real questions we should be asking about these “jobs” include their duration, the nature of the employment, the wages offered, and their overall impact on our state’s economy and public resources. Are they adding real value or perpetuating the “Alaska Disconnect”?

As we approach discussions on this topic, I’m trying to figure out how we can better understand what these jobs truly represent for Alaska and its residents. It’s crucial to redefine our perspective on job creation and employment, focusing not just on the numbers but also on the quality and long-term impact of these roles.

I like the work done by a group in WI at https://youreconomy.org/ that dives deeper into the difference between “jobs” (actual positions with one or more workers) and “employment” (reported to the state) and begins to offer a deeper understanding of the economic value and impact of creating jobs. In the end, I’m motivated to find a way to highlight the value of our emerging sectors and job creation that I believe will be essential to our future economy, rather than our current systems that track “jobs” and employment in our legacy and declining economy and draw our attention in the wrong direction with a sense of false recovery, but no real growth in jobs for our next generation of Alaskans. 

I’d welcome further insights you may have on our Alaskan “jobs.”

Ky

1/16/24 Alaska’s long decline in working-age population a drag on the economy – State’s residents getting older while the birth rate is falling, adding to long-term concerns about the workforce. By Alex DeMarban


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Comments

One response to “Alaska 2024 Jobs Outlook: Are these Alaskan Jobs?”

  1. Dixie Avatar
    Dixie

    Real point is the fact we have no sense of respect for our own kind (Alaskans) and we are still owened and manipulated by TX! Speaking of jobs vs careers and gainful employment! Employment which will offer the ability to live/achieve future reserves (savings/retirement)! Those in positional power have and continue to look inward vs outward and fail to recognize we live and operate in open system!
    Our leaders and legislators are not effective nor effective managers of our resources! The only way we can achieve success is create an innovative economy which will generate a number revenue streams vs being totally dependent on oil and gas! Furthermore, create and encourage a work culture that offers pride and respect! We need also to get (require) folks to take care of themselves (significantly reduce the number of welfare recipients) and their families!
    The private sector needs to take the lead in delivering a work force initiative vs the State for the State is institutional and is not able to operate in an agile system!

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