Resources, construction keep Northeast B.C. a job generator

Northeast B.C. has the lowest unemployment rate in Western Canada as resources, construction work keep economy humming

Western Investor
December 7, 2020

Workers lay Coastal GasLink pipeline to Kitimat. | Coastal Gas Link
— Workers lay Coastal GasLink pipeline to Kitimat. | Coastal Gas Link

Fueled by multibillion-dollar resource projects, the northeast posted the lowest unemployment rate in British Columbia for the fourth-straight month in November, falling to 4.8 per cent. This is also the lowest jobless rate in Western Canada, perhaps in all of Canada, based on Statstics Canada data.
B.C. gained 23,900 jobs in the month, bringing the unemployment rate down 0.9 percentage points to 7.1 per cent compared with a month earlier.

It is 7.8 per cent in the Lower Mainland, the second highest of any B.C. region.

Construction jobs numbers are down provincially since the beginning of the pandemic, but that doesn’t reflect the reality in the northeast, where major resource development projects and steady activity in residential, non-residential, and road-building, have kept the industry strong, said a B.C. business analyst.

“As much as there’s a bunch of bad news around from this virus, the resiliency of the northern communities and northern economies… is the hidden bit of good news in this whole pandemic circumstance we find ourselves in,” said Ken Peacock, chief economist for the Business Council of BC.

Productivity dropped in the construction sector under COVID-19, but not by much, said Northern Regional Construction Association CEO Scott Bone, who estimated companies lost about 20 per cent productivity due to public health protocols.

There are $120 billion worth of capital investments in B.C. in industrial and commercial projects ongoing or planned for construction or tendering this year or the next, said Bone. About $65 billion of that is in the northeast, namely, the Coastal GasLink pipeline, the LNG Canada facility, and BC Hydro’s Site C Dam.

“All three of those projects are now ramping up,” said Bone. “We’re seeing a good uptake in the opportunities for the construction industry as a result.’

British Columbia was the only Western province to add jobs to its labour force in November even as provincial officials urged residents to limit travel and interact only with those in their own households. Manitoba (-18,100 jobs), Saskatchewan (-2,800 jobs) and Alberta (-10,800 jobs) all experienced losses.

Canada as a whole added 62,100 jobs in November, bringing the unemployment rate down 0.4 percentage to 8.5 per cent.

-       With files from Prince George Citizen



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