Not surprisingly, Alaskans remain keenly interested in both the short-term and long-term prospects for the Alaska economy. ISER continues to give requested presentations on the Alaska economy and the state budget to civic groups. On October 18, Mouhcine Guettabi and Ralph Townsend participated in a panel entitled “Alaska’s Economy: Facts, Fiction and Figures” at the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) Convention in Fairbanks. In the panel, Mouhcine presented a talk entitled “Alaska’s economic and fiscal situation.” On December 3, Ralph Townsend gave a similar presentation to the Anchorage Harvard-Yale-Princeton Club lunch entitled “Recovery and Budget Cuts: Preliminary Evidence for Alaska and Anchorage.” Both presentations explained that the Alaska economy has been adding jobs slowly since mid-2018. And while the significant state budget reductions for FY 2020 (over $400 million in the operations budget) might have been expected to slow the recovery, it seems likely that a sizable supplemental budget will offset much of the budget reduction. While significant short-term uncertainty remains, it may be reasonable to expect Alaska’s economy to continue on its path of slow recovery.
On October 29, Ralph Townsend presented a talk at the Downtown Anchorage Rotary Club lunch entitled “Alaska’s Demographic Changes: Economic Implications,” which examined how three important demographic changes will shape the Alaska workforce and the Alaska economy in the future. First, Alaska is aging rapidly, and retirements are moving many older workers out of the workforce. The aging population will also demand increasing health care, and particularly nursing home care. Second, the ethnic composition of Alaska’s young population has already shifted significantly. Alaska’s under-18 population is now just below 50% white. Alaska’s youth are already a “majority minority” population. Alaska will need to work even harder to reduce the disparities in white/non-white educational attainment to sustain a workforce trained for future job demands. Third, for the first time since statehood, Alaska has experienced 6 years in a row where more people migrated out of Alaska than migrated into Alaska. While this might be explained by the booming economy in the lower 48, we do need to aware that continuation of this recent trend could substantially reduce Alaska’s workforce in the next 25 years.