Too many jobs, not enough people: Panel focuses on impacts of workforce shortage in Alaska

(WLUC, Maci Cosmore)
Published: Jul. 12, 2021 at 8:39 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “there is a record amount of job openings and not enough workers to fill them” across the country. At this week’s “Make it Monday” forum in Anchorage, panelists talked all about the worker shortage crisis and how it’s impacting Alaska.

The five-person panel discussed some of the obstacles people wanting to come back to work are facing, but also addressed why many people have chosen to not return to the workforce.

“A smaller and smaller working-age population is active in the labor market, and I think that’s going to accelerate, that more people have decided to retire as a result,” said Neal Fried with the Alaska Department of Labor. “My guess is during the pandemic people who had two-wage families are saying, ‘ehhh, I kind of like this, I might stay home for a while.’”

According to the Alaska Department of Labor, May’s over-the-year job growth was 5.7% and the unemployment rate in May was 6.7%.

One reason people might not be returning to work could be lack of childcare, Panu Lucier with Alaska SEED said, who added the country is seeing the lowest workforce participation of women since 1988.

Lucier said another reason some people might not be applying to jobs is due to low pay and little-to-no benefits. According to a slideshow presented at the forum with information pulled from the Alaska Department of Labor, the median wage in the state is $13.68 and most jobs do not offer health care benefits, retirement or paid leave.

In addition to the issues Alaska’s workforce is facing, the panelists also talked about what is working for some businesses around the state.

“It’s not just the money, it’s actually how they value their job ... what do they feel when they come in there? Do they feel like they are contributing,” said David McCarthy, CEO and founder of Northern Hospitality Group.

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