Alaska Lost Workers After Covid-19

Alaska has the most seasonal economy in the country as well as the largest migration flows in and out each year. A large percentage of the Alaskan population therefore turns over every year, an economic trends report explains. (Photo of Juneau by Kimberly Vardeman / Flickr).

Alaska's number of job openings jumped in 2021. The state is struggling more than ever to recruit and retain workers, a report states. 

While the number of job openings in Alaska initially dropped in the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, the numbers have risen dramatically in the last year. 

During the summer of 2021, the number climbed as high as 36,000 job openings. In January 2022, Alaska had 30,000 job openings, which is nearly triple the number from a decade ago.

The numbers are found in the Alaska Economic Trends report of April. While the report states that the pandemic is partly to blame, demographics do also play a role. 

"The large number of openings confirms what employers have been saying for more than a year: They’re struggling more than ever to recruit and retain workers. National and state surveys have identified a mixture of likely reasons, mostly linked to COVID disruptions", researcher with the state of Alaska, Dan Robinson, writes in the report. 

Older workers and women

The research found that 75,000 people of the original, and roughly, 322,000 residents who were working for an Alaskan employer before COVID were still missing as of late 2021. 

"It’s clear something substantial has changed in employers’ ability to fill open positions. The missing workers can help us understand what has changed to the extent their characteristics differ from who we would typically see leaving the workforce each year", the researcher writes and adds: 

"Far more of the missing workers were 60 or older; in other words, an unusual number of older workers left their jobs during the pandemic. Attrition for those workers rose from around 20 percent pre-pandemic to nearly 30 percent. One likely reason is concern about COVID in a particularly vulnerable age group. Another is financial stability after years of strong stock market gains. Some retired, and many likely retired earlier than they otherwise would have."

The second-largest increase in missing workers was in the 30-39 age group. This is however also more people of this age group have been leaving Alaska than moving here in recent years.

Women were however slightly overrepresented among the missing workers.

"On average, women shoulder more of the burden for child care and senior care. Women are also a disproportionate share of some of the hardest-hit industries (restaurants, bars, hotels, schools, and nonemergency health care facilities)."

Demographics suggest shortage will persist

It is noted that Alaska’s working-age population was shrinking well before the pandemic hit. 

"In the decade before COVID, the number of Alaskans ages 15 to 64 peaked in 2013 at about 509,000, then fell by nearly 30,000 over the next seven years as the large baby boomer cohort aged out of their typical working years.