Recreational cannabis became legal in Alaska in 2015, and the industry has experienced “skyrocketing” growth since then — in fact, the Alaska Department of Labor reports that it’s only one of two sectors that experienced growth during the pandemic in 2020. (Flickr photo/Brett Levin)

The fastest job growth in Alaska over the next ten years will be in agriculture, but if you’re thinking farmers and cows, think again.

The Alaska Department of Labor projects that marijuana cultivation will lead all industries in job growth statewide between now and 2030.

The biggest declines in jobs are projected to come from broadcast and print media.

The data are published in the October issue of Trends, the monthly report of the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. 

Cannabis cultivation emerged as Alaska’s leading high-growth industry for jobs because – unlike every other sector – it did not suffer a setback during the pandemic in 2020.

Job growth in marijuana cultivation and production actually increased by 8.2 percent that year; far ahead of the only other sector to remain in positive territory – millwrights – which saw job growth of about 2 percent.

Statistically speaking, marijuana is lumped into the “farming, fishing, and forestry” category, but state economists say that job growth in this category is driven by marijuana, and its dominant occupation is farmworkers and laborers, which represent about 40-percent of marijuana employment. This is also where almost 80-percent of the sector’s growth is expected to come from in the next ten years.

Note: The top 25 list includes only the occupations that have at least 50 workers and projected growth of at least 20 jobs. It excludes resudual occupations ending with “all other” and jobs with a high ration of self-employment to covered employment. The bottom 25 list covers only occupations with at least 50 workers.

Typically, healthcare is a strong sector for job growth, and the numbers suggest a post-pandemic rebound may be on its way: 14 of the top 25 fastest-growth jobs are in healthcare, with jobs ranging from surgical techs and registered nurses, to dieticians and recreational therapists. All those jobs fall below veterinarian, however, which is expected to see 16 percent more growth in the next decade.

The list of occupations expected to decline in Alaska reads a little like a 1990s career aptitude test: Fallers and logging equipment operators are on the decline, as are insurance sales agents, printing press operators, and mechanical drafters.

Leading the pack in job declines, however, are broadcast announcers, news analysts, reporters, journalists, and broadcast technicians – which are all expected to see losses around 35-percent by 2030.

Alaska is a relatively small state in a large broadcasting world, however, and that tends to inflate the statistics somewhat. The actual number of broadcast and journalism jobs the state will lose is 36,  with a third of that loss occurring during the pandemic. The data don’t capture how many people in the arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media category transitioned to freelance work, or became self-employed, which is common in this sector.

Factoring pandemic job losses into the overall picture for the next ten years is important to consider. Other jobs in the bottom 25 include bartenders and ushers, lobby attendants, and ticket takers. The discussion in Trends points to an apparent contradiction: “If we were to look only at 2020-2030, these occupations would appear to be among the fastest growing – but they hemorrhaged jobs during the pandemic, making the recovery look like massive growth. From pre-pandemic levels, the decade decline is around 5 percent.”