Monthly labour market report

Get ready for the rosy reports on the New Brunswick labour market today and tomorrow. The latest Stats Canada data shows that for the first six months of 2007, NB has led the country in employment growth.

But perspective is always important. Almost half the new jobs created were in health and education (two publicly funded sectors). Amost 2,000 were created in trade.

In terms of historical perspective, since June 1999, there have been 42,000 new jobs in New Brunswick. This is 1.7% of the national jobs created during that span (2.5 million) – well under our population-based share.

Further, the health sector was the largest contibutor to those jobs. Education and health jobs combined (two publicly funded sectors) made up 41% of all new jobs created since June 1999.

In addtion, we know that call centres (while not a ‘sector’ per se) added around 12,000 jobs during that timeframe (or around 29% of the job growth).

So call centres and public jobs made up 70% of all new jobs since June 1999.

Manufacturing jobs declined by 1,000 during that time and jobs in the Information, culture and recreation sector increased by 300 over the eight year period (nationally, Canada added 168,000 jobs in this important sector).

So, I don’t want to be a naysayer. Certainly the jobs growth is moving in the right direction.

However, if you remove public sector jobs and call centre jobs, we have one of the worst job growth stories in Canada.

Further, it is likely that the call centre sector growth in New Brunswick will peak sometime soon. Public sector job growth is hard to predict. Under McKenna, there were almost no new public sector jobs and under Lord this was the fastest growing job creation of any industry. One would assume public sector job growth is tied to Equalization but who knows….

My question now and for the past few years has been what’s next? After call centres? Energy? Maybe but it’s hard to see that sector creating more than a few thousand core (non-construction) jobs over the next 10-15 years – even with Lepreau II.

No, if we are serious about self-sufficiency. Serious about the 100,000 high paying jobs that need to be created (as per the task force), we will need to have a few more eggs in the basket.

One last point. We know that New Brunswick is experiencing record out-migration – 14 straight years of more moving out than in. If we are in a little growth spurt, who will fill the jobs? Migrants won’t come here for call centre jobs or retail jobs. Immigrants might come here for call centre jobs. But I don’t think this has been the case.

Will there finally be a serious dent in the seasonally unemployed workforce to fill new jobs? The number of people collecting EI each year has hardly budged in recent years. Who knows.

So, keep my comments in mind as Al Hogan and Samuel LeBreton gush over the labour market data tomorrow.