Report: Alaska’s population down after 26 years of growth

ANCHORAGE — An aging baby boomer population and a stagnate birthrate have caused Alaska’s population to fall for the first time since the 1980s recession.

The population dropped by 61 people between July 2013 and July 2014 for the first time since 1987-1988. More people left Alaska than arrived during the studied time period as well.

Data from the state Department of Labor shows Alaska lost 7,488 people from mid-2013 to mid-2014. It was the second straight year that more people left the state than arrived.

State demographer and report author Eddie Hunsinger says while the size of the drop is small, it is remarkable because Alaska’s growth has been steady for so long.

Unlike the oil-driven drop in population in the 80s, Hunsinger said the current 40 percent drop in oil prices compared to a year ago isn’t a factor.

“This data all came to us before the decrease in the price of oil,” Hunsinger said. “It’s not related to that.”

He attributes the drop to more deaths while birth numbers remain the same.

“Deaths will play an even bigger role in population change in future decades,” Hunsinger wrote in the report. “The rate is projected to continue increasing as the population ages.”

Hunsinger said migration to Alaska is dropping as the economy improves in other parts of the country.

“In very general terms, the difference between the unemployment rate here and down south can play a role in migration and it does seem the rest of U.S. economy is doing very well,” Hunsinger said.