A stalled economy cost northeast BC hundreds of resource sector jobs and thousands of workers in 2017

The Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia has released its annual Regional Check-Up economic report, noting the region's employment dropped for the second year running.

The goods sector lost 200 jobs due to declines in forestry, fishing, mining, and oil and gas. The service sector lost 400 jobs, despite "modest gains" in health care, social service, and trade industries, the organization noted in a news release.

Meanwhile, another 2,300 workers left the region to find employment elsewhere, cutting both the region's labour force participation rate and its unemployment rate.

“Economic activity in our region is stalled due to the unknown fate of the 20 proposed major natural gas projects here and across Northern BC. Our economy is tied hand-in-hand with the fortunes of the resource sector, particularly with the energy industry,” Ben Sander, a partner at Sander Rose Bone Grindle LLP in Dawson Creek, said in a statement.

“While investment has stalled over the past two years, natural gas exploration activity did pick up last year, with spending on petroleum and natural gas drilling and exploration in the region jumping from $15.1 million 2016 to $173.3 million last year.”

Northeast BC was the only region to experience an overall job loss. Across the province, employment grew by 87,300 in 2017. Northeast BC also saw the largest decline in its unemployment rate, from 9.7 percent to 5.9 percent. This is likely due to an exit of workers from the labour force, as the region experienced an overall job loss in 2017, the report noted.

The total value of the region's major projects inventory increased by 4.6 percent, to $39.1 billion. Most of those are proposed projects, with 27 projects valued at $18.2 billion.

“There are some budding signs of economic improvement in our region for 2018, including more expenditures on drilling and exploration activity, and more construction and trade jobs," Sander noted.

"But natural gas prices continue to suffer and are not predicted to improve significantly, which will likely push back any announcement of major new LNG projects," he said.