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Alaska gained residents last year, although Kodiak saw slight dip in population

View from the top of Pillar. (Photo by naql/Flickr)
View from the top of Pillar. (Photo by naql/Flickr)

Data released this week from Alaska’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development shows the state’s population grew – albeit slightly – last year. The latest count encompasses April 2020 to July of 2021.

“We did grow over the last year, it was just .1 percent,” said David Howell, the state demographer. “But still, it broke our trend of population losses that we’ve been seeing.”

That’s the first time Alaska’s population has grown since 2016. Howell says much of that growth is due to an influx of military personnel, particularly at Eielson Airforce Base in Fairbanks. Interstate migration is also down – that means fewer people moved out of the state. That’s a nationwide trend as more people stayed put during the pandemic.

Still, despite the overall statewide gain – in most communities it might seem like there are fewer people. That’s because 21 of Alaska’s 30 boroughs saw declines in their populations over the same time period. In Kodiak, there was just over a one percent dip in residents. Howell says that’s partially because of the Coast Guard base.

“We survey the military bases around the state and our numbers were really just down from the census, so that was what was going on there,” he said. “There wasn’t really any dramatic change in the Kodiak Borough, just with the Coast Guard numbers being a little bit down.”

An uptick in the number of deaths across the state was particularly striking, according to Howell. COVID-19 deaths added to the numbers, but Howell said that’s not the whole story.

“There were 380 COVID deaths but we saw this 760 jump in deaths so it’s not the only thing occurring,” said Howell. “Of course, it could be delayed medical treatment that sort of thing, I mean, there’s lots of possible reasons we just don’t have the data to flush out at this point.”

This year’s figures from the state are an estimate and not a formal count like the 2020 Census.