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November Jobs Down 7.4 Percent From Last November

Dec. 18, 2020
No. 20-43

JUNEAU, Alaska — Alaska’s November employment of 293,500 was down 7.4 percent from last November, a loss of 23,500 jobs, as the pandemic continued to keep job counts well below year-ago levels.

Leisure and hospitality jobs continued to record the largest losses, with 7,000 fewer jobs than last November (-22.0 percent). The transportation, warehousing and utilities sector had 3,100 fewer jobs (-14.9 percent). Oil and gas jobs were down 2,900 (-29.9 percent), and professional and business services jobs fell 2,200 (-8.1 percent) below year-ago levels.

The over-the-year losses were generally smaller for November than October, but that’s due mostly to Alaska’s especially seasonal economy and the fact that some of the state’s most seasonal industries were hit especially hard by COVID-related shutdowns and disruptions. Now that those industries are moving into their off-season months, the year-ago comparisons show smaller losses.

The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate jumped to 8.1 percent in November, and the comparable U.S. rate dropped to 6.7 percent. However, as we noted in recent months when the unemployment rate was implausibly low, the higher rate says more about the difficulty U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is having with the household survey, which is a key part of the calculation, than it says about actual change to the health of the state’s economy from October to November.

Jobs and unemployment insurance claims remain better barometers of the state’s economy than the unemployment rate during this period of pandemic-related disruptions. Job losses remain historically large, and unemployment claims during the second week of November were still about five times higher than for the same period last year.

The problems with the calculation of the state’s unemployment rate also affected the rates for Alaska’s boroughs and census areas. As with the state as a whole, it will be better to look at job numbers and claims for unemployment insurance to assess local labor market conditions.

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