AEDC: COVID-19 will set the Anchorage economy back, for years to come

According to projects from the AEDC, Anchorage's job numbers could be in the negative territory...
According to projects from the AEDC, Anchorage's job numbers could be in the negative territory through 2023.(KTUU)
Published: Aug. 5, 2020 at 7:18 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - On Wednesday, the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation gave its annual presentation of the 3-year economic outlook for Alaska’s largest city. Anchorage was on the back end of a 4-year long recession until COVID-19 brought job numbers crashing down and lifted unemployment levels to record heights.

Through an all-virtual luncheon, the AEDC’s president, Bill Popp, shared a concerning collection of data related to COVID’s impact, just a few months into the pandemic.

“AEDC is projecting the loss of nearly two decades of job growth for the city of Anchorage by the end of 2020,” Popp said. “All sectors of the Anchorage economy lost jobs in the first quarter of 2020 ... except for federal government employment, which gained 100 jobs, mostly due to the census.”

Through June, the AEDC is estimating that 9,300 jobs are gone in 2020. On average, unemployment levels sit at around 8.8%. According to Popp, Anchorage’s shrinking labor force distorts the impact that unemployment rates actually have on our economy. By the end of the year, we could realistically see job losses go as high as 11,100. Anchorage had already seen losses of around 5,700 jobs between 2015-2019, thanks to the recession.

Popp says that the recovery process should begin in 2021,- but according to AEDC projects, the growth will not be enough to put Anchorage’s job numbers above last year’s employment levels. By 2023, we may still be sitting at 4,200 jobs less than in 2019.

Popp also took time to address the waning production of Alaska’s oil industry. Oil is projected to be worth about $7.2 billion to Alaska in 2020, down $4.5 billion for last year -- and at least for now, the pandemic has derailed exploration and investment in new oil deposits that could potentially yield billions.

“We find ourselves in very difficult times, but they are not insurmountable,” Popp said. “We can overcome this disaster and get back onto the path to economic recovery, but it will be a long journey.”

During the presentation, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz took time to mention some of the growth being seen in Anchorage at this time.

“We’re seeing construction starts higher this year than last year,” the mayor said. “That’s because people believe in this community and are willing to invest in it.”

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