Alaska's distribution of large and small businesses, classified as "firms" by the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, is roughly the same as that of its West Coast neighbors and the nation as a whole. But what distinguishes the state is the composition of those employers and the role industry type plays in wages and benefits provided to employees.
While the majority of Alaska businesses are "small," employing fewer than one hundred people, larger businesses employ nearly half of the Alaskans who work in the private sector.
Of the seventeen thousand private-sector firms in Alaska in 2011, 60 percent employed four or fewer people. A staggering 98 percent employed fewer than one hundred people. But that remaining 2 percent packs a big punch when it comes to the influence of private-sector business on Alaska's economy and the wages paid to Alaskans.
The Department of Labor and Workforce Development categorizes "large" employers as those with more than one hundred employees, of which there were 353 in Alaska in 2011. These employers include mining companies, manufacturing (including seafood processing), and oil and gas, among other industries.
The oil and gas industry accounts for 91 percent of...