Population decline in Juneau attributed to state budget cuts News Staff

JUNEAU, Alaska — More people are leaving the city of Juneau than arriving because of state budget cuts and declining state jobs, labour officials said.

The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development estimates more than 1,300 people have moved out of Juneau since the city’s population peaked at 33,162 in 2015, KTOO-FM reported.

Juneau lost 172 residents from July 2018 to July 2019, and 286 residents in the following year from July 2019 to July 2020, officials said. The state population has also declined.

Agency economist Sara Teel said the percentage of Juneau’s lost population is almost double the state overall. Teel attributed the population decline to the loss of state jobs in the capital city.

“Most likely it has to do with state budget cuts and then attrition, not filling jobs that somebody left,” Teel said. She also said she expects the trend to continue well into 2021.

Sol Neely, a former professor at the University of Alaska Southeast, left Juneau with his wife and daughter in June during the coronavirus pandemic. He said part of the reason was because of budget cuts imposed by Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy. The cuts dismantled the Flying University, a program he founded to introduce college coursework to inmates and inspired them to attend college upon their release.

Neely now works at Heritage University, a private college in Washington state.

“I do have a sense of job security right now,” Neely said. “And we do have family here. So that’s nice.”

Democratic state Sen. Jesse Kiehl said no state department, with the possible exception of the Department of Corrections, has been immune from job losses because of budget cuts and attrition.

“When you see the economy losing payroll, losing jobs, that’s tough for kids in schools and strong cultural institutions,” Kiehl said. “That’s tough for contributions to our nonprofits, and volunteers and our social service organizations.”

Kiehl said he believes there will be efforts during the legislative session to stabilize state government funding. The session began last Tuesday and is set to run through mid-May.

The Associated Press

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