“Help Wanted” signs will likely remain a fixture for many Anchorage businesses in the coming years, as a declining and rapidly aging population further exacerbates the lack of workers in Alaska’s largest population center.
According to the latest Economic Forecast report by the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation, the city has lost more than 17,000 working-age residents over the past decade. That amounts to an 8.5% decline.
“This population loss has likely contributed to staffing shortages across multiple industries,” the report states. “Statewide, Alaska continues to have fewer than one unemployed person for every two job openings.”
The report notes that there has been a “noticeable slowdown in the number of people moving to our city over the last several years.” This has been driven by “high housing costs, perceptions of public safety, school quality, and other community factors.”
In order to stem the flow of people leaving, while encouraging new arrivals, Anchorage will need to “invest in housing, public safety, education, and redevelopment across the community,” the report recommends.
For at least the next five years, however, Anchorage’s population is expected to continue to decline. This is due to steadily declining birth rates, and outmigration outweighing the number of new residents who are drawn to Anchorage.
Anchorage’s working-age population (those between 16 and 64 years old) is also affected by baby boomers aging out of the workforce, while the arrival of new residents continues to slow.
The report notes that less than half of the people born in Alaska stay in Alaska long-term, with just 48.7% of those born in the state still living in Alaska as of 2021. That’s the second lowest retention rate in the nation.
Even if the oil industry brings new residents in for work, that is not expected to outpace the rate of baby boomers aging out of the workforce, the report cautions.
Overall, Anchorage’s working-age residents represented 65% of the city’s total population in 2023, down from 69% in 2014.
The report warns that workforce shortages will dampen employment growth and economic recovery in Anchorage, even as professional and business services are poised to grow with the flow of federal infrastructure money, increased tourism travel and additional oil and gas employment opportunities in the city.