The Backyard Economy: Alaska

The economic outlook for Alaska is much brighter than in the lower 48 states.

"I think we're doing better than most of the U.S.," said Scott Goldsmith, an economics professor at the University of Alaska in Anchorage.

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Goldsmith said the housing market has softened in Alaska, but not nearly as much as the rest of the nation. Alaska is near the bottom in the state rankings for foreclosure rates. There is, however, excess inventory of homes for sale, which could depress prices.

In the meantime, Alaska's state government has no lack of funds. With the oil industry paying higher taxes, the state government has reaped the benefits. Goldsmith warned, however, that Alaskans should not get too comfortable.

"Looking forward to the longer term, we are a state that's very dependent on oil, and our oil production is falling," he said.

A vulnerable spot for the state is tourism. With a potential recession looming in the U.S. mainland, the higher cost of travel could discourage many Americans from visiting the state. Alaska will benefit from a decline in the dollar as more foreign tourists visit, Goldsmith said.

And while some Alaskans worry about the economic troubles in the rest of the country, Goldsmith says there's not much to worry about.

"Alaska's economy has proved to be countercyclical in the country's past few recessions," he said.

One important question no one can answer: Will Alaska build a natural-gas pipeline?

Goldsmith said if it happens, it certainly won't be soon. Even as the governor and the legislature work to make the project happen, Goldsmith said Alaska is still counting on the project to stimulate its economy in the future.

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