Alaska lost 42,000 jobs in April

April 2020 job losses taken from Department of Labor press release

Alaska lost 42,200 in the month of April compared to the same month last year, according to data released Friday from the state Department of Labor. 

The losses are staggering. But Karinne Wiebold, an economist with the state, said that after seeing the national numbers last week, she’s not surprised. 

“That’s not a magnitude that we’ve run into before, so it’s large number, it really is, but it’s not shocking,” she said.  

Alaska’s unemployment rate now stands at 13%, slightly lower than the national rate of about 15%. The sector hardest hit is leisure and hospitality, where nearly 50% of people lost their jobs. That’s about 5,000 jobs erased. Those jobs, which include restaurant workers, bar workers and gym workers, were lost due to shutdowns linked to the coronavirus.

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“Some of these jobs will return as restrictions ease, but many seasonal jobs won’t materialize this year — such as those serving cruise ship tourists,” according to the labor department.

There’s also a continued loss of high-paying jobs in Alaska that isn’t linked to the pandemic.

“We’re down over the year over 1,000 oil and gas jobs. And oil and gas jobs are very well paid, so being down 1,000 of those could be a wage equivalent of many more jobs in lower-paid sectors, and that obviously has a big effect on our economy,” said Wiebold. 

There were also substantial losses in retail, construction, and state and local governments, which Wiebold says are largely linked to education job cuts. 

The total number of people filing for unemployment benefits in Alaska has hovered around 50,000 for the past several weeks. The number of initial unemployment claims during the week beginning May 8 held steady at around 7,700.