Pancake ice floats past downtown Fairbanks on the Chena River. Credit Eric Engman.

Population declines in Alaska and Fairbanks

By Robin Wood, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

FAIRBANKS — The Fairbanks North Star Borough’s population fell by 1,216 in 2017, part of a larger trend in which Alaska’s population declined for the first time since the late 1980s.

Alaska’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development published the statistics in the March edition of Alaska Economic Trends.

The FNSB had a natural increase (birth rate) of 1,118 last year. But a decrease of 2,334 in net migration (in-migration minus out-migration) means the borough’s population decreased by 1,216.

The number of borough residents in 2017 — 97,738 — is about 200 more than the 2010 census recorded.

Demographers do expect FNSB’s population to grow, thanks to the arrival of F-35s at Eielson Air Force Base, according to the report.

Within the state, 699 people left Fairbanks for Anchorage, while 475 moved the opposite direction. Alaska’s population decreased by 8,900 last year, the fifth year in a row of net migration losses.

“This represents the longest streak of Alaska losing more migrants than it gains since World War II, when yearly numbers first became available,” according to the report.

Even though net migration has been in the negative for the past five years, it’s the first population decrease in decades.

Alaska’s birthrate had more than offset a migration loss of 29,000 people over five years, keeping the total population growing. But last year, birth rates fell and death rates increased, tipping the scale toward a population decrease of 0.4 percent.

The prolonged net migration loss is “a sure indicator of tough economic times,” according to the report.

Continue at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner