Many of Alaska’s jobs are seasonal, with unemployment rates dipping in the summer when the construction, fishing, and tourism industries are at their peak.
However, there’s a considerable job sector in Alaska that’s immune to seasonality. It’s also grown steadily over the last 20 years, even through tough economic times: the healthcare sector. The industry, with an estimated size of $7.5 billion and nearly 39,000 Alaskans employed, has established itself as an industry giant in the state.
Whether you’re considering a move to Alaska and looking for a job in healthcare—or you’re simply interested in the future of the state—we’ll explore a set of revealing statistics that demonstrate healthcare’s key role in the state’s economy, as well the vital part it plays in the health of Alaska’s residents.
Stat #1: The Healthcare Industry Is Alaska’s Largest Private-Sector Employer
In 2008, it was estimated that Alaska’s healthcare industry employed 27,800 workers.
As of 2018, 38,500 Alaskans found work in the healthcare industry, representing a 10-year growth rate of 38%.
Currently, healthcare is the state’s largest private-sector employer. Providence Health & Services, which operates four medical centers in Alaska, is the largest private employer in the state, followed by Sam’s Club/Walmart.
So if you’re looking for a job in Alaska—or you’re a healthcare worker looking for a new state to call home—you’ll find plenty of opportunities in Alaska.
Stat #2: Alaska Pays Its Healthcare Professionals More Than Any Other State
Health care practitioners and technicians make an average of $98,020 a year in Alaska, which makes Alaska the highest-paying state for these jobs overall.
If that’s not enough to convince you to consider a career in Alaska, consider a couple of the average wages that medical professionals receive in Alaska:
- Pediatricians: $265,750
- Obstetricians and gynecologists at $261,680.
- Health technologists and technicians: $62,200
- Registered Nurses: $87,510
Stat #3: Despite This High Pay, There’s a Shortage of Healthcare Workers in Alaska
Like many other states, Alaska is facing a labor shortage in healthcare. As of 2016, 96% of the state’s land area was designated a federal Health Professional Shortage Area. The shortage is especially problematic in the more rural and isolated areas of the state, where it’s a challenge to both recruit and retain healthcare professionals.
To attract long-term workers to the state’s isolated towns and villages, the state has focused on a novel approach: recruiting non-traditional health care workers to provide preventative and educational services. Available positions include behavioral health peer support specialists, as well as three paraprofessional positions: community health aides (CHAs), behavioral health aides (BHAs), and dental health aide therapists (DHATs) who practice within Tribal Health Organizations.
The state has made addressing this labor shortage a priority, with good reason—as the next statistic will demonstrate.
Stat #4: The Industry Has Been Growing for the Last 20 Years with No Signs of Stopping
Alaska Business magazine called healthcare “the most stable industry in Alaska,” and the numbers bear out that assertion. According to the state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Alaska’s healthcare industry has seen steady growth for the last 20 years, with no indication that it will slow down. Case in point: Construction and renovation of facilities are continuing in Soldotna, Anchorage, Palmer and Southeast Alaska, among other regions.
In fact, healthcare is such a giant in Alaska that it’s impacting the real estate industry.
Stat #5: The Medical Industry Is Even Changing the Real Estate Market
With the continued growth in the market, it’s natural to see additional construction and renovation projects within hospitals and medical centers. However, the expansion of the healthcare industry has had a surprising impact on even the real estate surrounding these hospitals and medical centers.
As the Anchorage Daily News points out, this is creating several interesting effects:
- Large areas of land near healthcare facilities are transforming into commercial areas designed to house medical professionals and other healthcare tenants.
- Many medical professionals are getting in on the real estate game by making purchases of their own through LLCs, then leasing out any unused space out at ~$3/square foot.
- Banks are gladly financing this growth, given the expectation that the growth of the healthcare industry will only continue.
In other words, with all of these various parties on board, healthcare expansion is poised to continue—and impact several industries within the state.
However, even as growth continues, the industry will still need to contend with the unique challenges of the state’s geography.
Stat #6: Healthcare Service Delivery in Alaska Has to Meet Unique Challenges with Unique Solutions
Although it’s the largest state, Alaska has a population of only 737,438, resulting in a population density of about one person per square mile. Additionally:
- About 75% of Alaska is inaccessible by car, including its state capitol, Juneau.
- As a result, nearly 25% of the population lives in towns and villages that are reachable only by boat or aircraft.
- Additionally, 25% of all Alaskans and 46% of Alaska Natives live in communities of fewer than 1,000 people.
As a result, it can be extremely challenging for many Alaskans to get access to healthcare. To combat this issue, Alaska has developed a network of healthcare facilities to serve its population, including 14 Critical Access Hospitals (CAH), 32 Federally-Qualified Health Centers, community health centers and four short-term hospitals outside of urbanized areas. Many centers are also utilizing telehealth solutions to connect patients with doctors and specialists at larger facilities.
Facilities are also pursuing projects to bring more advanced facilities to isolated areas. One such project aims to bring a catheterization lab to Central Peninsula Hospital on the Kenai Peninsula. When completed, the lab will allow staff to implant pacemakers and complete angiograms on-site, rather than sending cardiology patients to Anchorage for these procedures.
This geographic isolation particularly affects Alaska Natives. Although members of the native population are reportedly moving to more urbanized areas, the majority of the Alaska Native population lives in smaller, remote locations. As a result, the healthcare facilities designed to support this population have adapted to these challenges accordingly.
Stat #7: Alaska Tribal Health Organizations Have the Largest Healthcare Network in Alaska
Within Alaska, tribal health care organizations (THOs) manage health care facilities for Alaska Native people. They work in conjunction with the Alaska Area Indian Health Service (IHS) to deliver health services to nearly 175,000 Eskimos, Aleuts, and Indians. The system serves all 228 federally-recognized tribes in Alaska. Through these relationships, as well as membership in Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC), these Tribal Health Organizations have the largest healthcare network in Alaska.
The expansion of telehealth programs through the Alaska Federal Healthcare Access Network (AFHCAN) has begun to improve access to care, especially in more isolated areas. Previously, 47% of new patients waited five months or longer for an appointment with an ENT specialist. That number dropped to 3% six years after implementing a telehealth system.
Even so, the Alaska Native population remains a vulnerable one, with a life expectancy of 5.5 years lower than any other group in America. The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium aims to change that, by delivering the highest quality health services for Alaska Native people at the Alaska Native Medical Center and across Alaska.
In coming years, the Alaska healthcare system will also have to serve another vulnerable population: seniors.
Stat #8: An Aging Population Will Rely Heavily on Alaska’s Healthcare Resources
Current projections from the Alaska Department of Labor suggest that the number of Alaska residents over 65 will more than double by 2042. This represents a significant reversal from Alaska’s former population trends, in which the state boasted one of the youngest populations in the U.S.
This trend has major implications for the healthcare industry in Alaska. According to the American Hospital Association, more than six out of ten Baby Boomers will be managing a chronic health condition, and they’ll require more health care services than any other generation of Americans.
In other words, the boom within this population sector will only continue to support the healthcare industry’s continued growth in the Frontier State.
Healthcare: Alaska’s Growth Sector
As it stands, the healthcare industry is poised to continue to fuel Alaska’s economy, with growth spilling over to related industries, such as construction and real estate. Whether you’re looking to take advantage of Alaska’s high pay rates for healthcare workers, enjoy more stable year-round work or find a job in an area that supports the healthcare industry, the state will continue to offer diverse opportunities for years to come.
Considering a relocation to Alaska? Whether you’re moving to take advantage of this trend—or for any other reason—we’d love to help! Just get in touch with us. Our Alaska-based team can answer any questions you have and arrange for a complimentary quote for your relocation.