With modest job growth expected in 2021, Anchorage’s economic leaders show cautious optimism

Downtown Anchorage, as seen from the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail in Jan. 2021. (Abbey Collins)

After a year of devastating job losses, Alaska’s largest city is expected to add a modest number of jobs in 2021. That’s according to a forecast from the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation (AEDC). 

AEDC President and CEO Bill Popp spoke at the organization’s annual forecast luncheon Wednesday.

“COVID-19, as well as uncertainties for the global, national and state economies were all wildcards in this year’s forecast,” said Popp. “We’ve done our best to take all of the variables we can quantify into account. But even then, the level of uncertainty that surrounds us all made this year’s forecast incredibly challenging to develop.”

The forecast, produced by McKinley Research Group with data from the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, predicts Anchorage will add 4,000 jobs this year. The city lost nearly 14,000 jobs in 2020. 

The biggest job gains are expected in the leisure and hospitality industry, which was hit the hardest by the pandemic. That sector is expected to gain 1,700 jobs in Anchorage. 

Modest gains are expected across all other sectors of the city’s economy except construction and financial activities, where no changes are anticipated. 

Popp said the city has a long way to go, but he’s confident economic recovery can happen. 

“To be sure, this will be a long journey to full recovery,” said Popp. “We have both the five-year recession and the pandemic to recover from. To see a full economic recovery, Anchorage needs to add a combined 18,400 jobs, which will take years to accomplish.”

The AEDC forecast notes the speed at which the economy recovers will depend on the trajectory of the pandemic and distribution of vaccines.