Economics professor: Alaska job sector slow to recover from COVID-19

Published: Apr. 21, 2021 at 7:38 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - In April 2021, Alaska saw 21,900 fewer jobs than in March 2020, according to University of Alaska Anchorage associate professor of economics Mouhcine Guettabi.

Guettabi led a presentation via Zoom on Wednesday that detailed several aspects of the Alaska economy and how it’s been impacted by COVID-19. In the presentation, he said the economy initially saw an explosion of unemployment claims, and then saw those numbers decline in the following months.

Guettabi said Alaska is still at four times the level for pre-pandemic unemployment claim numbers due to the drop in jobs.

“Scaring effects are very, very problematic for an economy, meaning that there are negative consequences to having a ton of people unemployed for an extended period of time,” he said.

Guettabi went on to highlight that a 10% increase in unemployment benefits caused a 3.6% decline in job applications. He presented that research has shown the $600 unemployment benefit supplement from the CARES Act had “little or no effect on the willingness” of unemployed people to look for or accept jobs.

While Guettabi said there could be a number of factors some people don’t want to return to the workforce, he mentioned it could be from more generous payments by the federal government, fear of COVID-19, or that wages are too low.

He said he believes Alaska needs to allocate money to help connect potential employees with possible employers during this recovery period.

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