Economist Neal Fried tells Cordova’s story

Cordova, Alaska. (Jan. 2, 2020) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith

Back in 2010 the population of Cordova hit a decade low of 2,239, but since then its population has grown faster than the state and most other Prince William Sound communities, says state labor economist Neal Fried.

And while the city’s median age remains older than the state’s, Cordova has trended young in recent years, as more young people have moved there than left, Fried writes in a feature article on Cordova and its tie to fisheries in the February issue of Alaska Economic Trends.

Cordova’s Copper River red salmon harvest comprise the nation’s first wild salmon harvest each year, as the fish head for the Copper and Bering rivers, and the harvest is celebrated with great fanfare in homes, markets and restaurants from Anchorage to Seattle.

Fried notes that Cordova residents earned $14,090 per capita from fisheries in 2018, compared to just $813 statewide. A 2015 McDowell Group report found that of the region’s 20 communities, Cordova was the most seafood-dependent.

The power of the seafood harvest aside, the town faces new uncertainty with the cut of ferry service last year, when the state ended the two to three weekly sailings last September.

“The full economic effect of the loss isn’t yet clear, but with no road link and a dependence on water transportation to move people and freight, Cordova could face significant consequences from the loss of its ferry service as the year progresses,” Fried said.

Meanwhile Cordova’s employment remained steady over the past decade, even with the recent statewide recession. In fact, employment in Cordova grew slightly during that period, from 1,176 jobs in 2016 to 1,220 in 2018, he said. The community lacks economic ties to the oil industry or a large state government presence, two areas hard hit during the downturn.

“Cordova, The Fishing Mainstay,” along with a look at the statewide population in 2019 are all included in the February edition, online at labor.alaska.gov/trends/feb20.pdf

Online issues of Trends dating back to 1994 are available online at labor.alaska.gov/trends.