Alaska’s January employment was down 7.4 percent from January 2020 — a loss of 23,000 jobs — as the pandemic continued to keep job counts well below year-ago levels.

Leisure and hospitality continued to record the largest losses, with 7,800 fewer jobs than the prior January (-25.7 percent). Oil and gas employment was down 3,400 (-34.0 percent). Retail trade and the transportation, warehousing and utilities sector both had 1,800 fewer jobs (-5.3 percent and -9.1 percent, respectively). Local government’s job count was 2,000 lower, primarily in public education. Professional and business services employment was down 1,700 (-6.3 percent).

State government’s job count was up 200 from the previous January, mostly from pandemic-related hires such as contract tracers and additional staff to process unemployment insurance claims.

The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 6.6 percent in January from a revised December rate of 6.5 percent. The comparable U.S. rate dipped from 6.7 percent to 6.3 percent. As we’ve noted, Alaska’s unemployment rate has been an unreliable and misleading economic indicator during the COVID-affected months. 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 January were still 3.5 times higher than the same week in 2020.

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