Most Alaskans can attest to paying a lot at the grocery store. But data released last week by Alaska’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development in its monthly economic newsletter Trends, suggests food prices in Kodiak could be the highest in the country.
State economists studied survey data from the Council for Community and Economic Research from last year that compared the costs of living in 265 communities across the country. The survey looked at six categories – housing, groceries, utilities, transportation, healthcare and miscellaneous household expenses. And Kodiak topped the list nationwide for two out of the six: groceries and healthcare.
Dan Robinson is the research chief for the Department of Labor and Workforce Development and co-authored the Trends article; he said on the whole, there’s less of a gap between the cost of living in Alaska compared to the Lower 48 than there used to be.
“Broadly, costs for Alaskans since the 80s have come down relative to the rest of the country,” he said. “That doesn’t mean they’re less expensive here.”
Robinson said it’s hard to put a finger on why healthcare costs are so much higher in Kodiak, but groceries come down to location. Kodiak – like many other places in the state – has a relatively small population and has to ship in nearly all its food. Add in COVID-caused supply chain problems and inflation, which reached a 41-year high in the state last year, and prices have soared even higher.
Kodiak can’t officially claim the number one spot for food costs, though. The survey doesn’t include every community in the U.S. And it only includes data from four cities in Alaska – Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau and Kodiak – which all had higher costs than the national average in each of the categories surveyed.
Robinson said it’s not all bad news, though.
“Our inflation, like the nation’s, is coming down, it’s still higher than average, but it’s coming down,” he said.
That being said, sheer logistics means some things, like groceries, will likely stay more expensive in Alaska.
“Nobody should think that in the next two years, their bag of groceries in Kodiak is going to cost the same amount as it does in Bend, Oregon,” Robinson said. “It will continue to have high prices relative to other parts of the country for the same reason we have for a long time.”
Meanwhile Alaskans will just have to keep eating the costs.