Scott Goldsmith, Professor Emeritus of Economics at ISER, spoke with Abbey Collins of Alaska Public Radio Network last week about increased construction spending in Alaska, particularly increases in petroleum and national defense spending. These increases, along with spending as a result of the 7.1 magnitude earthquake in November, are contributing to what Goldsmith estimates to be about a 10% increase in construction spending over 2018. Goldsmith's estimates of spending by sector are available in the 16th annual construction forecast, prepared for the Associated General Contractors of Alaska.
How did we get here? The Alaska economy is heavily dependent on the oil sector both in terms of private sector jobs and government funding. Since the rapid decline in oil prices, it has experienced a prolonged recession with declines in employment across most sectors. Before the end of 2014, oil prices were elevated for a long period of time when the price exceeded 100 dollars for multiple months. However, starting June 2014, oil prices experienced a deep drop averaging only $54.26 in the 4 years since. This is much lower than the $84.47 they averaged between 2006 and July 2014. While oil prices started declining in June of 2014, the first month of negative employment growth did not occur until October 2015. The state has essentially lost jobs in every month since that initial decline. This has also resulted in a precipitous drop in government revenues, which has forced the state to use savings to fill the fiscal gap. To gain perspective on the depth and severity of the Alaska experience, we attempt to compare the recessions across states and understand the features of the states which fared best and worst.
The state is in the midst of its longest recession. A new analysis by Mouhcine Guettabi, an associate professor of economics at ISER, analyzes how the recent decline in oil prices has affected the overall Alaska economy and its individual sectors, compares the Alaska recession to that of other energy-dependent states, and estimates the long run relationship between oil prices and employment growth.