Alaska’s Major Industries & Job Opportunities: By the Numbers

When it comes to preparing for a big move to a new location, we’ve noticed that most people subscribe to one of two philosophies:

  • Philosophy #1: Research all you can ahead of time so you arrive prepared with a solid plan in place. #TeamResearchIt
  • Philosophy #2: Jump in feet first, and figure it all out when you get there. #TeamWingIt

At Royal Alaskan Movers, we’re more the “research and prepare” types. (We pretty much have to be!) If you are too—and you’re considering making the Last Frontier your next home—we’d love to help you discover more about Alaska before you make the move.

Below, we’ll take you on a tour of the major industries in Alaska so you can evaluate job opportunities—and decide how you might want to become a part of the Alaskan economy when you move north.

Overview: Alaska’s Economy

#TeamResearchIt Stats:

  • GDP: $49,120,000,000 (48th in the country)
  • GDP Per Capita: $44,174 (4th in the country)
  • Labor Force: 372,900

When it comes to the overall makeup of Alaska’s economy, Scott Goldsmith of the Institute of Social and Economic Research at the University of Alaska Anchorage describes it as a “three-legged stool.” The three main “legs” are:

  1. Oil and gas
  2. Federal spending
  3. Everything else (We’ll walk you through the major industries that make up this “leg” below!)

This metaphor should give you a sense of the impact of the oil and gas industry on Alaska—and how its other major industries stack up accordingly.

Although Alaska’s economy has struggled a little in recent years, both the oil industry and oil field jobs are expected to grow in coming years. Additionally, the Alaskan Department of Labor and Workforce Development expects growth in both military spending and tourism. Several other industries, including healthcare and construction, also remain optimistic about adding jobs.

To give you a better sense of the major industries that make up the Alaskan economy, as well as the common jobs in Alaska, we’ll walk you through the top six.

Alaska Industry #1: Oil and Gas

#TeamResearchIt Stats:

  • Size of Industry: $4.7 billion
  • Total Industry Labor Income: $749 million
  • Labor Force: 9,300
  • Fun Fact: For each job in Alaska’s oil industry, there are 20 additional jobs in the Alaska economy connected to the industry.

When oil prices dropped in 2014, the oil and gas industry in Alaska felt the impact. However, several major oil and gas companies continued exploration activities to help regain their footing. Their bold decision looks like it will pay off. Several discoveries along Alaska’s North Slope and beyond are positioned to add thousands of jobs in coming years.

The oil and gas industry has far-reaching effects on Alaska’s economy. The Alaska Oil and Gas Association has projected that nearly one-third of Alaska’s jobs are a result of the oil and gas industry, either directly or indirectly through jobs that provide goods and services to the industry. If current exploration efforts yield new projects, as expected, the oil and gas job market will expand, and the Alaskan economy along with it.

Alaska Industry #2: Construction

#TeamResearchIt Stats:

  • Industry Size: $6.6 billion
  • Labor Force: 13,400
  • Fun Fact: Highway, street, and bridge construction have been one of the most stable subsets of the Alaska construction industry.

Construction is the state’s third-largest industry, one that offers the second best-paid jobs in Alaska.

The construction industry in Alaska is projected to add the largest number of jobs in 2019, thanks to three major factors:

  1. Increases in military construction spending, largely related to expansion at Eielson Air Force Base.
  2. Healthcare sector growth, due to the aging population in Alaska who need both additional healthcare services and senior living facilities.
  3. An increase in educational construction spending.

If you plan on working in construction, these three growth areas may make it easier for you to find a job in Alaska quickly, paving the way for a smooth transition to the Frontier State.

Alaska Industry #3: Healthcare

#TeamResearchIt Stats:

  • Industry Size: $7.5 billion
  • Total Industry Labor Income: $1.5 billion
  • Labor Force: 31,800
  • Fun Fact: Providence Health & Services, which operates four medical centers in Alaska, is the largest private employer in the state, followed by Sam’s Club/Walmart.

Similarly to the construction industry, the aging population of Alaska is contributing significantly to the growth of the healthcare sector. In fact, healthcare in Alaska has been enjoying decades of positive numbers, with no sign of slowing.

Currently, Alaska has the fastest growing population of people over 65, and that population is projected to double by 2042. Add to that more than 166,00 Alaska Natives who receive medical services through federally-funded facilities, and the healthcare job market in Alaska looks poised for continued growth over the coming years.

If you happen to work in the field of healthcare—or an industry that services it, like construction—you’ll likely find it easy to get a job in Alaska.

Alaska Industry #4: Tourism, Leisure & Hospitality

#TeamResearchIt Stats:

  • Industry Size: $1.8 billion
  • Total Industry Labor Income: $1.4 billion
  • Labor Force: 39,000
  • Fun Fact: One in three Alaska visitors are repeat travelers to the state.

Tourism as a whole is the second-largest private-sector employer in Alaska. The state sees almost two million visitors a year, half of whom arrive by cruise ship. Cruise ship numbers declined slightly due to a 2006 state tax bill, which caused many ships to reroute to other destinations. However, in 2010, the Alaska Senate lowered the “head tax” on cruise ship visitors, with the hope of bringing more business back to the state.

Finding a job in tourism, leisure and hospitality offers you a variety of options. Alaskans working in the industry do things like offering tours and excursions, running restaurants, operating hotels and bed-and-breakfasts—everything visitors to Alaska need to make their visit an enjoyable and comfortable one.

Alaska Industry #5: Government

#TeamResearchIt Stats:

  • Total Industry Labor Income (State and Local): $3.4 billion
  • Labor Force (Federal, State and Local): 80,700
  • Fun Fact: 70% of local government workers are employed by Alaska’s public school system.

In comparison to the rest of the United States, Alaska boasts the second-highest percentage of its population working for the government. However, government jobs and employment have been slowly declining in recent years. Increased military spending is likely to reverse this trend and create new opportunities in the government sector.

Compensation for government workers in Alaska is often higher than that of their private sector counterparts. According to a study published by the Alaska Policy Forum, the average compensation in 2016 was $105,759. A similar job in the private sector was estimated to pay $68,152. Some have called for greater efficiencies in the Alaskan government, so these numbers may change in future years, leaving the future growth of government jobs in Alaska a little uncertain.

Alaska Industry #6: Fishing

#TeamResearchIt Stats:

  • Industry Size: $12.8 billion
  • Total Industry Labor Income: $5.2 billion in annual labor income
  • Labor Force: 8,061 (monthly average full time)
  • Fun Fact: Salmon generate more harvesting jobs than any other fishery.

If you’re a fan of the show Deadliest Catch, you may have been wondering when we’d talk about the fishing industry in Alaska. The state consistently leads the pack in the US in terms of the value of its harvests. In 2011 alone, 5.35 billion pounds of fish and shellfish worth over $3.0 billion were harvested in Alaska waters. Maine ran a distant second, with harvests valued in the neighborhood of $500 million.

Depending on the season, the industry can generate up to 60,000 jobs, although, the monthly average for full-time jobs is closer to 8,000. Along the areas of coastal Alaska, fish harvesting and processing often provide the most significant job opportunities available.

If you dream of heading north to find work in Alaska on a fishing boat, start looking in early spring, when most of the positions get filled.

Uncovering Job Opportunities in Alaska’s Major Industries

As you research your move, keeping Alaska’s major industries in mind will help you pinpoint where you’d like to find work in Alaska—and where the best job opportunities can be found.

In other words, a little preparation ahead of time can go a long way toward helping you get settled in your new home quickly and easily.