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Alaska doesn't want you

State advises that if you plan to move there, you should have a job lined up first.

By Karen Datko Oct 19, 2009 7:56PM

We heard a fascinating tidbit in a weekend CNN report about how the recession has finally arrived in beautiful Alaska, where the official unemployment rate is now 8.4%, and much higher in the Bush.

The job market is so tight that the state now posts a caution on its Division of Employment Security Web site suggesting people not move to Alaska unless they already have work lined up. "We have a fair amount of people who think that Alaska is the promised land, and they have misconceptions maybe about what is up here. And they load up the family and head out on the Alaska highway, and we want to encourage them not to do that until they have something lined up before they get here," (regional job center manager Brad) Gillespie said.

Sounds like great advice. When we lived in Alaska nearly a decade ago, we got calls from acquaintances Outside who assumed that a pipeline was always under construction somewhere (they're not), that jobs were plentiful, and that if all else fails, you can live off the land.


Apparently the dream lives on.


The Mudflats reader "mpb" wrote that last year, out-of-state callers to an Alaska job center "wanted to know how to find the jobs because they were flying in next week. When told there were too many homeless now (and the shelters were refusing newcomers because over capacity) the response was 'Well, I can just camp out.' And, 'I've camped in the snow before.'"


You don't want to do that. In fact, the Division of Employment Security suggests that if you come looking for work, have a round-trip ticket and $2,000 to $3,000 in cash. "Many who arrived short of cash encountered serious hardship and shattered dreams," the Web site adds.


Don’t believe the state? The advice is echoed at many other online locations. "Try to get a job before you get here," writes our former colleague Leon Unruh at the Moving to Alaska page at

At least have a good lead on a job, advises artist  Elise Tomlinson at her "FAQ about living in or moving to Alaska." (She also answers common and comical questions like "Can a vegetarian survive in Alaska?" and "How long each year is it dark ALL the time, how long is it light?")


Are there any jobs available there? The Division of Employment Security's "Finding Work in Alaska" page says you might find one in, say, the service industry (in summer, that is) or in health care. It adds:

And where (jobs) are not: Due to falling production, oil and gas industry employers have been laying off workers, and further layoffs are expected. Employment in state and local government is in a downward trend. Mining companies have been curtailing operations. Urban school districts have more teacher applicants than positions and rarely hire from out of state. The timber industry is much reduced from earlier years. There is no factory work in Alaska. The fishing industry has experienced dramatic declines in harvests in some species and areas. Competition for federal jobs is keen: for information, contact an Office of Personnel Management in your state.

The Mudflats blog emphasizes the reality there: "When I first moved up here, I remember thinking it was like stepping back in time five years. But, unfortunately, the economy is catching up to us. We tend to feel isolated, insulated, and immune from the economic travails of the rest of the country, but here they come."


If you do head to Alaska, remember this sage advice: People don't really want to know how you did things where you used to live. As another Moving to Alaska site says, "We're proud of the saying, 'We don’t care how they do it in the Lower 48!'"


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