State employment information points to a levelling of job losses. State Department of Labor economists warn that the data is still preliminary, however. Information for August, 2017, indicates that jobs in the state are down 4,800, or 1.4 percent, compared with August 2016. This is an improvement from the January-through-June information showing employment that was down 5,000 to 6,000 compared with the same period of 2016.
Job losses in high-wage industries like oil and gas, and construction, were also lower in August compared with earlier months. However, professional and business services, a category that includes engineering, was still substantially below August 2016. This is a key indicator of future economic activity because professionals like engineers, or environmental specialists, work on projects that are in the planning stages.
Retail as well as leisure and hospitality employment, which are indicators for the general economy because they reflect spending of disposable income, were down moderately in the August labor data. These industries, which include restaurants and hotel jobs, were boosted somewhat by a strong summer tourist season.
Health care remains a strong industry and continues to grow, according to the August data. Employment grew by 600 jobs in August and 500 jobs in July, with similar monthly increases throughout the first half of 2017 and for 2016. The expansion is partly a result of the state of Alaska’s decision to expand Medicaid, a state-federal health care program for low and moderate-income Alaskans, under the federal Affordable Care Act. It is also partly a result of the natural aging of the population, which results in more demand for medical services.