Leisure and hospitality continued to record the largest losses, with 8,600 fewer jobs than a year ago (-27.3 percent). The transportation, warehousing and utilities sector had 2,600 fewer jobs (-12.6 percent). Oil and gas employment was down 3,200 (-32.0 percent), and professional and business services lost 2,000 jobs (-7.4 percent).
Anchorage shut down bars and restaurants during December to slow the spread of COVID-19, which represented much of the drop in leisure and hospitality. Oil and gas employment appeared to hit a floor of around 6,800 jobs in November, where it stayed in December, but there’s no sign yet of a bounce. Oil jobs hovered around 10,000 in early 2020 before the pandemic drove them down to current levels.
State government’s job count was up 500 from December 2019, primarily from COVID-related hires such as contract tracers and additional staff to process unemployment insurance claims.
The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 5.8 percent in December from a revised November rate of 6.3 percent (the preliminary November rate was 8.1 percent). The comparable U.S. rate remained at 6.7 percent. As we’ve noted, Alaska’s unemployment rate has been an unreliable and misleading economic indicator during the COVID-affected months. Some key inputs to the unemployment rate come from a household survey the U.S. Census Bureau conducts for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That survey has been difficult to conduct during the pandemic and has produced data that are out of sync with job numbers and unemployment insurance claims.
Job losses remain historically large, and unemployment claims during the second week of December were still nearly five times higher than the same week in 2019.