The population of Alaska is shrinking for the first time in decades. The drop in residents suggests the state could be facing an unprecedented economic struggle as fewer people are opting to move there as they stay home or look for jobs elsewhere, according to a new state labor report, reports Newsweek.
For the past five years, Alaska has lost more people than it has gained residents, representing the longest streak of population loss since World War II when researchers first started tracking the yearly numbers. In all, nearly 29,000 more people have moved out of Alaska since 2012 than have moved into the state. The state had a net loss of nearly 9,000 residents in 2017, its largest population loss since 1988, the report from Alaska’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development found.
The problem isn’t necessarily that more people are leaving Alaska. Roughly 50,000 people have left every year. Instead, the issue is fewer people are moving to Alaska, with a drop to about 40,000 from 50,000 new residents in 2013, the report found.
Alaska has the most unstable population of any state in the U.S., with residents coming and going every year. While there are more native-born Alaskans than ever, with 41 percent born in Alaska these days versus only 32 percent in 1980, most residents arrive from other states.
Most people leaving Alaska are heading to Washington because of its proximity. California, Texas, and Florida are also popular alternatives, according to the report. Many of those fleeing are young people looking for jobs, starting college or entering the military. But older people are increasingly leaving Alaska, too, especially residents over the age of 50.
Alaska’s unemployment rate was 7.3 percent, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report in March. New Mexico, which has the second highest unemployment rate in the U.S., had a rate of 5.9 percent.