Alaska struggles with work related stress, job retention unseen in other states

Alaska has highest rate of work related stress and unfilled positions
Alaska faces some of the highest rates of job resignation and work related stress, leaving many positions unfilled.
Published: Mar. 23, 2023 at 9:49 AM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - While the nation has struggled to see the economy bounce back post-pandemic, Alaska has faced greater difficulties with employee retention, work related stress and filling vacant positions.

The last frontier has the highest rate of work related stress, job openings and ranks fourth among all fifty states for job resignations. All of these issues are interconnected and have a major impact on both the economy and the functions of businesses. From long wait lines to difficulties with supply and demand, Alaska’s private and public sectors have struggled to fulfil the needs of both their customers and their employees.

Work related stress is highest in Alaska which is contributed to many factors, the two biggest being “commute time,” and “hours worked per week,” said Jill Gonzalez, an analyst at Wallethub. Gonzalez said when it comes to both commute times and hours worked per week, Alaska has some of the longest. The average work week for Alaskans is 41.6 hours, compared to a national average of 37 hours. Long times at work also cut into leisure time for which Alaska has the second lowest amount in the country. Combined, these stressors contribute to financial, family and health related stress as well.

Along with high levels of work related stress, the state ranks fourth for job resignation. Work related stress contributes to the high levels of job resignation, but the changing job market adds to that rate. As remote work became popular during the Covid-19 pandemic, it remained popular and “that’s what a lot of workers want,” Gonzalez said. But, “in Alaska, a lot of jobs you have to show up to.”

The lack of remote or hybrid positions is also a deterrent for those looking to find a new job in the northern most state. With a higher cost of living and increasing inflation rates, the state faces other challenges as well. “It really boils down to two things,” said Gonzalez. “creating some type of remote work environment” and if not that, “higher wages.” While some states and companies have caught on to that trend, Alaska and some companies in Alaska have not. Decreases on Alaska’s working age population and years of outward migration further the difficulty employers face with staffing numbers. Alaska currently has the highest job openings rate in the country at 8.5%. That’s nearly twice as large as the lowest job opening rate in New York, 4.6%.

Combined, these staffing shortages which continue in Alaska harm the state’s economy fueling furth distress for employees, employers and customers alike.

Gonzlalez added that most of these difficulties are faced by Alaska’s private sector while the government hasn’t dealt with a large loss of staff.