While Alaska’s economy is supported by numerous industries, it is three primary sectors that provide the bulk of the economy’s strength, according to the Institute of Social and Economic Research
at the University of Alaska.
Those three sectors are the federal government, petroleum, and the combination of all other sectors, according to ISER’s Scott Goldsmith, an economics professor
who calls the Alaskan economy a “three-legged stool.”
Here is a look at the top five industries affecting the Alaskan economy:
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The petroleum sector is responsible for 34 percent — or 110,000 — of jobs in Alaska, according to the Alaska Oil and Gas Association
. Prudhoe Bay, located on the coast of the Arctic Ocean in northern Alaska, is the largest oil field in North America.
In 1976, the state began setting aside a portion of oil revenues. As of January 2015, the Alaska Permanent Fund was worth $52.7 billion
, the fund’s website reported. Families receive dividends of thousands of dollars on an annual basis.
The Land of the Midnight Sun is a popular vacation destination, making tourism the second largest private sector employer in Alaska, according to the state’s Resource Development Center
. In 2013, 1.96 million people visited the state, drawn to the majestic mountains, spectacular glaciers, and abundant wildlife. More than half of the visitors, 51 percent, arrived by cruise ship, 45 percent by air, and 4 percent came by highway or ferry, the RDC said.
Tourism brings in more than $1.8 billion dollars annually, a number that increases to $2.42 billion with the addition of labor income from visitor industry jobs is counted. Overall, tourism counts for 39,000 jobs.
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The fishing industry in Alaska has a great impact on the economy of the state; indeed, Alaska is the only state bordered by three different oceans: the Arctic, Pacific, and the Bering Sea. When all of the islands are taken into account, there are 34,000 miles of coastline, but Alaska is also home to more than 3 million lakes and 3,000 rivers.
In 2011, Alaskans harvested 5.35 billion pounds of fish and shellfish, the RDC said
. Depending on the season, the industry can generate up to 60,000 jobs, although, the monthly average for full-time jobs is more than 8,000.
Mining is another top industry in Alaska and encompasses exploration activity, development, and production. In addition to gold, the industry mines for silver, coal, copper, lead, and zinc.
In 2010, the mining industry provided 4,100 jobs for people who were directly involved in production and exploration, according to the Alaska Miners Association
. This also included self-employed miners. Jobs indirectly related to mining, such as construction companies, or businesses selling supplies to miners, boosted the number to 8,200 jobs, resulting in an annual personal income of $565 million in 2010.
The timber industry in Alaska has decreased over the past several decades, although Alaska mills still produce flitches, unfinished wood less than four inches thick, and cants, also unfinished wood, but thicker than four inches, the RDC reported
. It also produces shingles, railroad ties, shop lumber, and dimensional lumber, among others.
The state has over 129 million acres of forested land, and as of 2011, 307 employees were directly involved in the industry, with 150 indirectly employed, bringing the total payroll to $21 million.
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