Bulletin 03/23/14

Unemployment holds at 6.4 percent

Alaska’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate held steady at 6.4 percent in January.

The national rate was 6.6 percent for the month, down 0.1 percent from December, according to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

It is the closest the two rates have been since late 2008 when the national rate jumped above the state unemployment rate. Nationwide unemployment was nearly 2 percent higher than Alaska’s as recently as late 2010.

The state rate stabilized in 2013 at pre-recession levels — it was 6.5 percent in January 2013 — while the national unemployment rate fell significantly from 7.9 percent at the same time.

Across Alaska, unadjusted unemployment increased nearly everywhere in January, a common occurrence for the winter months, a Labor Department release states.

Rates fell on Kodiak Island and the Aleutians areas where winter fisheries offered seasonal work. January unemployment was the highest in Southeast’s Hoonah-Angoon Census Area at 26.1 percent and the lowest at 4.3 percent in the North Slope Borough.

— Elwood Brehmer

Brehmer is a reporter for the Journal. Contact him with tips and story ideas at elwood.brehmer@alaskajournal.com.

Anchorage tops among North American cargo hubs

Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport received the diamond-level Air Cargo Excellence Award as North America’s best cargo airport in 2013 by Air Cargo World magazine.

“As a carrier, UPS is proud of the outstanding partnership we have with the Ted Stevens International Airport. We are not surprised that Anchorage won this award,” UPS Properties Manager for Anchorage Kevin Hoffman said in an airport release. “Anchorage plays a vital role in our global network, helping us serve customers in more than 220 countries and territories around the world.”

The annual award is figured using a survey that asks airlines to rate airports based on their performance, facilities, operations compliance and value and was presented at a March 10 awards ceremony in Los Angeles.

Consistently one of the world’s most popular cargo hubs because of its strategic location as a link between Asia and Europe to large American cities, the Anchorage airport is the second-busiest cargo hub in North America and the fourth-busiest in the world, according to an October 2013 Air Cargo World report.

Memphis, Tenn., headquarters for FedEx, is North America’s busiest cargo airport. In 2010, nearly 2.5 million tons of cargo passed through Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, Air Cargo world states.

The Anchorage airport also won the award in 2012 and came in second in 2011, according to an airport release. The consistent recognition is due to planning efforts by airport staff — thinking ahead to be prepared for Boeing’s largest iteration of its 747 jumbo jet, the 747-800, and providing operators with ample space to move the aircraft, for example.

“Congratulations to our great staff a Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport on receiving the Air Cargo Excellence Award for the second time in three years. Alaskans are proud of our largest airport for its global leadership in the cargo industry and role as an economic engine in our state,” Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Commissioner Pat Kemp said in a formal statement.

— Elwood Brehmer

Brehmer covers transportation for the Journal. Contact him with tips and story ideas at elwood.brehmer@alaskajournal.com.

EPA extends response deadline on mine impacts

JUNEAU — A federal agency is providing more time for the state and the group behind the proposed Pebble mine to provide information showing development at the site would not result in “unacceptable” environmental impacts.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has initiated a process that could lead to it prohibiting or restricting development of a massive gold-and-copper prospect in the Bristol Bay region.

The state, Pebble Limited Partnership and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had 15 days from the Feb. 28 announcement to submit information showing no “unacceptable adverse” impacts to waters would occur or to show that actions could be taken to prevent such impacts.

The state and Pebble requested the process be stayed until permit applications are submitted and reviewed.

EPA has instead extended the response deadline to April 29.

— Associated Press

Fisheries laws working through Legislature

Changes to certain fisheries taxes are working their way through the Alaska Legislature.

The House passed fisheries product development tax credit legislation March 14 that would continue a program that incentivizes businesses to come up with new salmon products, and extend it to include herring, too.

Now it is before the state Senate, where it is in the Labor and Commerce Committee.

Rep. Alan Austerman, R-Kodiak, introduced the bill last April. This year, it made its way out of committee and to the full body, which voted 38 in favor of passing it.

The tax credit is meant to increase value-added processing in Alaska, as well as increase utilization or recovery of salmon and herring byproduct. Austerman’s bill would extend the program through 2020, and also changes the language somewhat to allow certain additional expenditures to count toward the tax credit calculations.

The Senate in February passed a bill changing the fishery resource landing tax. Now it is in the House Finance Committee.

The bill would change when the tax must be paid, and adjust how partial payments would work. The tax is applied primarily to factory trawlers and floating processors that process fish in federal waters and then land them in Alaska for shipment or other purposes.

Several fishing groups, including the United Fishermen of Alaska, Southeast Alaska Fishermen’s Alliance and Alaska Scallop Association supported the changes.

— Molly Dischner

Dischner covers fisheries for the Journal. Contact her with tips and story ideas at molly.dischner@alaskajournal.com.

Geoduck fishery reopened

Southeast Alaska’s geoduck fishery reopened, although the U.S. still hasn’t reached an agreement with China on imports.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced March 18 that the fishery would be open March 20 in certain parts of districts 1, 3 and 4.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will meet with Chinese officials March 21, in China. That meeting came after a cancelled March 3 meeting, and subsequent letter from Sen. Lisa Murkowski to the United States Trade Representative, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration asking why the U.S. had not yet sent a delegation to China to discuss that nation’s import ban.

“It is unclear to me what is causing a delay in sending this delegation to China, and I would like to urge you to expedite the scheduling of this important meeting with [China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine] officials in China. 

“I also would like to request that you include individuals with the requisite scientific and technical expertise to address any concerns raised in meetings with Chinese seafood inspection and trade officials, as well as individuals with a working knowledge of regional shellfish production and harvesting operations,” Murkowski wrote in her letter.

Murkowski wrote that the ban is a problem for Alaska fishers, who normally send some of their product to China.

— Molly Dischner

Dischner covers fisheries for the Journal. Contact her with tips and story ideas at molly.dischner@alaskajournal.com.

03/19/2014 - 12:02pm