State labor official says its hard to tell when Alaska's recession will end

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - The Research and Analysis Unit of the State Department of Labor and Work Force Development takes a snapshot of Alaska's economy as of August in the October edition of Alaska Economic Trends.

    A key gauge is job growth, according to Unit Chief Dan Robinson who calls that gauge the most telling  about the performance of an economy.  "Right now through August, we were losing jobs at at 1 point 4 percent rate."  He said that's an over the year comparison.  In the last ten  years the state has averaged about zero  point 4 percent growth.  Robinson said the state is lagging the nation noticeably.  He said the U. S. is growing at 1 point 5 percent.

    August is the 23rd consecutive month of job losses and he said Alaska is getting to almost the same length of time as the recession in the 1980's which was 25 months.

    So if this recession exceeds 25 months, will it mean this downturn was worse than the one in the 1980s?  Robinson said the answer to that question is "no" and added,  "The losses have been less severe as a percentage basis, but interestingly there's no real sign of the losses ending any time soon.  We're watching for that and it will happen sometime over the next year probably, but it's not happening yet.

    The other major gauges are unemployment and wage growth.  Robinson said the 7 point 2 percent unemployment rate in August is just a little bit above the ten year historical average of seven percent.  The U. S. average is 4 point 4 percent.

    And Robinson said of wage growth.  "All the wages combined grew just slightly in the first quarter of 2017 compared to the previous year.  That got our attention because it was the first time wages have been up after four straight quarters of them being down."  He add it appears second quarter earnings may be down again.

    Robinson says resumed and sustained wage growth, when it occurs, will be a good indicator that the Alaska recession is over.

     

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