Economic report forecasts Anchorage population will end downward trend while warning about workforce retirements

Bill Popp discusses final AEDC outlook
Published: Aug. 3, 2023 at 5:22 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - After years of declining population numbers, economic experts say the city’s population could begin increasing again — but are also sounding the alarm on the city’s declining workforce.

In the latest report that forecasts the next three years, the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation showed that from 2021 to 2022, Anchorage’s working-age population saw a loss of 1,761 working residents, while its non-working age population grew by 1,161 residents.

It resulted in a 0.5% drop in working Anchorage residents from 2021 to 2022. When including stats going back to 2013, the percentage of Anchorage’s non-working residents has increased by 3.4%.

It has continued a disturbing trend that’s been mostly fueled by older generations of residents retiring, while younger generations of workers haven’t been able to supplement the loss, said AEDC President and CEO Bill Popp.

“I think that the city is evolving, it’s maturing. We’ve got an older workforce, we’re seeing a lot of retirements, and that is causing a lot of our problems with labor force,” Popp said. “And then we’ve also got out-migration, there’s a lot of competition for workforce in America, and Anchorage is going to have to up its game to help attract that workforce back to our city in the coming years to be successful.”

While the declining working population numbers may be concerning to economic experts, Popp said there is also a lot to be happy about.

Anchorage’s total population is seeing growth, according to the report, after six years of continuous decline. The corporation said the city can expect to add about 1,000 people in 2023 — which equates to an approximate 0.3% boost — which it says are signs of a net outmigration trend finally slowing down.

Popp said the disruptions in employment and population trends seem to finally be reversing. The city’s biggest drop in population came in 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Popp also said investment on Alaska’s North Slope is expected to create roughly 5,000 new jobs, as well as “billions of dollars” in revenue over the next five to six years.

He also said production at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is not slowing down, citing the report that says the airport accounts for roughly 14% of jobs in Anchorage.

“We see a really good forecast for air cargo at the airport, as well as passengers, which leads us to tourism, which is looking even better than it was this year,” Popp said. “Tourism has just been stunning ... We’ve also got a really growing entrepreneurial community, which is really doing a lot of things to create new lines of business, new opportunities for our community. And that has been a really great thing to see the ecosystem for entrepreneurs grow over the last 10 years.”

The report also illustrated Anchorage’s best and worst career industries as it relates to new jobs added or lost — the leisure and hospitality industry topped the list with 1,845 new jobs, while health care suffered the most with 181 job losses.