According to a report by the Chartered Professional Accountants of B.C. (CPABC), while the Northwest region may have experienced job cuts in the service sector last year, the future is looking bright.
The CPABC recently released its annual Regional Check-Up report on Northwest B.C., comprised of the North Coast and Nechako regions, that states the labour market deteriorated in 2014, with total employment in the region reaching its lowest level in at least a decade.
Statistics Canada reported an overall loss of 1,600 jobs in 2014, a result of shrinking employment in the services-producing sector. This contributed to a 1.1 per cent increase in the unemployment rate, for an annual average of 8 per cent.
However, the report noted that virtually all job losses were part-time.
“It is suspected that these statistics may represent some unfilled job openings and the merger of part-time jobs into full-time positions,” reads the report.
“This coincides with the slowing of port activity and the completion of two milestone projects in 2014: the Forrest Kerr Hydroelectric Project and the Northwest Transmission Line Project. The completion of these projects would have brought an end to some employment contracts,” explained Jeanne MacNeil, a Chartered Professional Accountant from Smithers.
But economic activity is expected to pick up on the North Coast in 2015, as four projects located in and around Prince Rupert move forward: the Fairview Container Terminal Expansion, Prince Rupert Potash Terminal upgrade, and the Prince Rupert and Westcoast Gas Transmission Projects, worth a combined total of $12.4 billion.
The report states if these projects proceed, construction activity would create long and short-term employment opportunities, in addition to spin-off economic activity.
“The future economic outlook for the region, and B.C. as a whole, will depend on the go ahead of at least one of the proposed LNG projects,” said MacNeil.
The construction of major projects and renewed demand for lumber exports through the Port of Prince Rupert should help the North Coast’s economy to expand this year, but continued uncertainty in metal and mineral prices and global energy markets could delay or slow spending on major projects, softening any growth in the Northwest region.
The most recent Northwest labour indicators show a substantial increase in overall employment in the first quarter of 2015, driven primarily by gains in construction and manufacturing. As of March 2015, Northwest B.C.’s unemployment rate was 5.8 per cent.