- Associated Press - Friday, January 17, 2014

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Economists this week offered different takes on the state’s economic outlook for 2014, with one posing the question of whether Alaska’s economy is grounded.

Marcus Hartley, a senior economist with Northern Economics, did not answer his question. But he told those gathered for the World Trade Center Alaska’s annual economic forecast talk on Thursday that Northern Economics “basically threw out our models this year, because it was pessimistic. And we just didn’t feel like the world was going to jump off a cliff.”

Hartley said some sectors, like natural resources, health care, tourism, retail and transportation and utilities, stand to gain this year. But others, like professional business services, could be hit hard by government cutbacks. The government is also likely to lose jobs, he said, according to KTOO, (http://bit.ly/1j9cApl).

“So total change, a whopping 450 jobs increase,” he said. “Not too bad. But really, if we’re in a big recovery, where’s all the jobs, dude?”

The state’s economy slowed last year. Behind that, Hartley said, were reductions in state and federal spending and a continued decline in North Slope oil production. He said Alaska’s gross state product, a measure of total economic output, declined about $2 billion last year to $51 billion. And he predicted a further decline of $1.8 billion this year.

World Trade Center Alaska Executive Director Greg Wolf was more bullish in his assessment.

He said companies operating in Alaska exported about $4.5 billion worth of goods and services overseas and expected a similar amount this year.

“Trade represents new money coming into the economy,” Wolf said. “It sustains and results in thousands of both direct and indirect jobs. The overall effect, of course, it results in a stronger, more diversified economy for our state.”

Alaska exports have more than doubled in the past 20 years, he said.

Alaska’s biggest trade partners are in Asia, he Asia, he said, with China buying about 28 percent of the goods exported from the state. Seafood comprises about half of Alaska exports. Minerals and precious metals account for 34 percent, with energy, including liquefied natural gas, coal, and refined fuels, accounting for 8 percent and timber 4 percent.

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Information from: KTOO-FM, http://www.ktoo.org

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