2,000 more jobs forecast for city

The Anchorage economy could grow by 2,000 jobs in 2002 or about 1.4 percent, according to the Anchorage Economic Development Corp.

The economic forecast reveals a decrease in new job growth compared with 2001, said AEDC research director Jeff Pokorny.

"Although the final numbers for the year won’t be in until late January, the Department of Labor expects 2,800 new jobs at a minimum, and that number will most likely be higher once the final revisions are in, making 3,100 jobs a very real possibility," he said.

Pokorny presented the report at AEDC’s annual economic forecast luncheon Jan. 9 at the Egan Civic & Convention Center.

Several factors could influence the forecast outcome, including a U.S. recession officially that’s forecast to end by the second half of the year, according to AEDC’s report. Anchorage unemployment has stayed low, recording the state’s low of 3.7 percent compared to 5.6 percent statewide in November. The national unemployment rate was 5.7 percent for the same period. Pokorny expects per capita wages in Anchorage to hold steady at $33,800 compared with a national average of $28,546.

"There had been some hope that with higher oil prices and increased activity in the oil patch that Alaska’s wages might start to increase relative to the rest of the country, but with oil prices expected to stay down for the foreseeable future, oil is not expected to be a driver of wage rates," he said.

The services sector is expected to tally the strongest gains, adding about 1,600 new jobs this year, Pokorny said.

"For several years services has been far and away the strongest sector of the Anchorage economy, and 2002 will be no exception," he said.

Such gains may be due to increasing demand for health care services, as well as continued growth in businesses services and temporary employment, he noted.

A possible downturn in tourism this summer could hamper the services sector, although spring and fall conventions booked in advance could still be strong, Pokorny said.

AEDC predicts employment gains in the construction, government and trade or retail sectors while the mining sector should post decreases. Sectors posting flat to slight job growth include transportation, communication and utilities, manufacturing and the finance, insurance and real estate sectors.

Employment in the trade sector should climb by 500 jobs, Pokorny said. Leading the surge will be a new Fred Meyer store in South Anchorage opening in February while several other new stores are under construction, he noted.

"The lone cautionary note in this sector is restaurants, especially those that derive a large part of their business from the tourism sector because tourism is expected to be down this year," Pokorny said.

Last year construction in Anchorage posted strong results, and permits are expected to surpass $550 million, according to the AEDC official.

Major projects for this year include construction of several large retailers plus work at Elmendorf Air Force Base and Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. Housing construction, especially for duplex and multifamily units, should play a strong role in the sector, he said.

Anchorage construction should add 200 jobs this year, Pokorny said.

Government employment in the city could increase by 100 jobs, he said.

"One possible source of job gains will be the federal takeover of airport security operations but that will largely be a transfer of existing jobs from the services sector to the government sector," he said.

The mining sector, which includes oil and gas, was one area AEDC listed as set to lose jobs compared with 2001. However, Pokorny attributes the decrease to completion of Northstar oil field modules in July.

Pokorny released his preliminary report before BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. announced 120 layoffs in early January.

Transportation, communication and utilities industries could post no new jobs or possibly 100 new jobs, AEDC predicted. A soft global economy has slowed growth in the cargo industry, affecting Anchorage, Pokorny said.

Likewise, manufacturing in Anchorage could post flat employment results or gain 100 jobs.

"Alaska Seafood International has the potential to make a big impact in this sector," Pokorny said.

Employment in the finance, insurance and real estate industries should be on par with last year, posting no significant job gains, according to AEDC.

01/13/2002 - 8:00pm