Hot times in the city

Jobs easy to find, housing market tight in Anchorage


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Anchorage Economic Development Corp. president and CEO Bill Popp holds a copy of the group’s 25-year anniversary publication during the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce meeting on Aug. 1 at the Bear Mountain Grill in Eagle River. Popp said he expects Anchorage to see continued job growth over the next year and beyond. However, he stressed that affordable housing will continue to be an issue facing residents — especially those working entry-level and minimum wage jobs.

MATT TUNSETH

Finding a job in Anchorage is easy. Finding an affordable place to live isn’t.

In an optimistic report to the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce last week, Anchorage Economic Development Corporation president and CEO Bill Popp said the Anchorage Municipality’s housing market is beyond tight.

“We now have the hottest real estate market in the United States,” Popp said during the chamber’s luncheon on Aug. 1 at the Bear Mountain Grill in Eagle River.

Popp said an average home in Anchorage is currently selling after just 43 days on the market.

“That is just crazy fast,” he said.

The city’s rental market is even more competitive, with an average vacancy rate of less than 2 percent. Popp said Anchorage’s unemployment rate of just 5.7 percent (compared to 8.2 percent nationally) makes the municipality an attractive place to live. But that’s creating a housing shortage for the city’s workers, who must now make at least $18 per hour to afford an average one-bedroom apartment.

“That’s a real challenge,” he said.

Popp said Anchorage is likely to reach a significant population milestone within the next year.

“We believe we’ve got a shot of breaking the 300,000 mark,” he said of the municipality, which currently has about 295,000 people, according to the U.S. Census.

Popp drew applause from the chamber when he reported that Anchorage had added 3,300 jobs in 2011, an increase of 2.2 percent.

“That is a great story,” he said.

Most of that growth (900 jobs) was in the field of health care, which Popp called “the roaring monster of our economy.”

Through the first six months of 2012, Popp said the positive jobs numbers have continued to the tune of 1,517 new jobs through June.

“We’re right on track,” to match last year’s numbers, he said.

Although domestic tourism has seen only modest improvement, Popp said the visitor industry as a whole saw 6 percent growth in 2011 thanks to a 3.8 percent increase in foreign visitors.

Popp said retail jobs will get a boost, he said, when Cabella’s adds a 100,000 square foot store in Anchorage and Auto Zone adds six stores in the municipality — including one in Eagle River.

Another area Anchorage remains strong is shipping. Popp said Ted Stevens International Airport is the fifth largest cargo airport in the world and continues to serve as a vital worldwide shipping hub.

“Eighty-two percent of freight coming into the U.S. from Asia,” comes through the airport, Popp said. “…Those are pretty amazing numbers.”

Popp said his overall outlook on Anchorage is positive, with low unemployment and a growing economy predicted through the next several years.

“It’s not a boom, but it’s definitely not a bust,” he said.

For more on the AEDC’s economic outlook, visit aedcweb.com

 

Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727 or matt.tunseth@alaskastar.com

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