Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Unemployment numbers suggest shrinking workforce


October 29, 2020

While the number of Haines Borough unemployment insurance claims fell from 213 to 149 between August and September, the unemployment rate for the borough increased from 9.6% to 10.6% during the same time period.

The divergent trends could be an indication that people are leaving the workforce, according to state economist Lennon Weller, although he said it’s hard to make definitive pronouncements with such a small sample size. The unemployment rate is based on data from national surveys and can be inaccurate at the local level.

“I would wait for a longer trend, but yes, I would say, looking at these monthly estimates, it’s pretty clear the labor force is shrinking,” Weller said.

Since July, the estimated number of employed individuals in Haines has dropped by roughly 300. For September, the number was estimated to be 970.

Weller said the increase in the unemployment rate this month is likely a reflection of the decline in employed individuals, rather than an increase in unemployed people. “We’re victims of the ratio. Employment (in Haines) is falling at a greater rate than unemployment,” he said.

The discrepancy suggests that people who were once classified as “unemployed” are falling out of the category but not because they’re becoming employed. Instead, they’re ending their search for work and leaving the workforce entirely.

Weller said as the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic drag on, this trend is likely taking place at the state and national level as well.

In Haines, industries with the greatest number of unemployed filers include hospitality, food service, construction and healthcare. Thirty-five percent of unemployment claims filed in September came from people formerly employed in arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodations or food service. Fifteen percent came from construction workers, and twelve percent from heath care and social assistance workers.

Overall, unemployment numbers remain high compared to past years. In September 2019, only 11 Haines residents filed for unemployment.


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