JUNEAU, Alaska — Southeast Alaska was hit hard in 2016 by government job losses and a lull in fishing production, but the tourism industry continues to grow, a state economy expert said.
Economic development officials with the Southeast Conference found that the region lost 750 state jobs throughout the past three years, a nearly 15 percent drop, CoastAlaska News reported (http://bit.ly/2g2blP1 ).
Meilani Schijvens, who wrote the report for the conference, said that loss of wages is similar to a large mine being shut down in Southeast Alaska.
“It’s actually slightly bigger,” she said. “So it is an enormous economic hit.”
The region lost 250 state jobs in 2017 alone, Schijvens said. About 30 percent of the region’s 45,000 jobs are in state and local government, she said.
In the private industry, fisheries jobs dropped by more than 10 percent, and earnings went down by almost twice that amount — making tourism the region’s top private industry.
“Our visitor industry, in terms of wages, is now our most important private sector industry for the first time ever,” she said.
The fisheries business is cyclical, so one or two down years might not predict a longer trend, Schijvens said. She expects the seafood industry to get back on its feet.
“We do expect our visitor industry to continue to expand tremendously,” she said. “We expect our health care (sector) to continue to grow. We expect our mining industry to continue their positive trends. We expect seafood to be a lot better moving forward than it was in 2016. And we expect our maritime industrial jobs to continue to expand as well.”