Unemployment Rate Drops in May

Maggie Wall/KMXT

The jobless rate in the Kodiak Island Borough dropped slightly between May and April.

April’s local unemployment rate was 7.1 percent. In May it was 6.9. That pretty much matches the situation at this time last year, when the May jobless rate was 7.0 percent.

These percentages come from the state labor department and are what is called "not seasonally adjusted." That means they don’t adjust for the normal ebb and flow of seasonal jobs, but do compare the number of people out of work or looking for work as a percentage of the total workforce. Kodiak’s total civilian workforce in May was 6,365.

In terms of real people Kodiak’s unemployment rate translates into 440 people who were looking for work in May compared to 477 in April. While that’s a drop in 37 people in a month’s time it’s important to note that the official definition of unemployed may not match what most people think of as "the unemployed."

The official definition does not include those who have given up trying to find a job. It also does not include the self-employed, or fishermen looking for jobs, which Kodiak has a lot of this time of year.

In fact, the Alaska Labor Department says many people in rural areas of Alaska-such as isolated villages-do not meet the definition of "unemployed" because they didn’t look for a job simply because there are no jobs to be had in many rural areas.

Statewide, May traditionally signals the beginning of the summer season with more jobs in fishing and the visitor industries. The jobless rate fell slightly in most areas of the state. The statewide unadjusted rate in May was 7.9 percent, down from April’s 8.4 percent. The lowest May rates were in Skagway, a big tourist area, and Bristol Bay, a major fishing region.

One factor affecting the statewide jobless rates is the difference between Alaska’s and the national rate. According to the state labor department, Alaska’s relative employment picture is better than much of the country’s so more job seekers are coming north looking for jobs, and fewer Alaskans are leaving to find jobs Outside.

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