FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Fewer people employed in the service industry, and high unemployment in Fort Nelson could be the reasons for the discrepancy between the unemployment rate in Northeast B.C. and Western Alberta.
B.C. Statistics released regional unemployment data last week that showed that the unemployment rate in our part of the province currently stands at 10.1 percent. Similar data from the Alberta Ministry of Labour shows that the unemployment rate in the region that includes the Peace is only at 5.4 percent, a difference of nearly five percent. The economic region in question not only includes data from Grande Prairie and Peace River, but across the entire border with B.C., including Jasper, Rocky Mountain House, and Banff.
Northeast B.C. Resource Municipalities Coalition Executive Director Colin Griffith speculated that the lower rate of unemployment just across the provincial border can largely be accounted for by the larger service industry in Grande Prairie. “Grande Prairie itself is very diverse, it’s a shopping centre,” said Griffith. “There’s a smaller proportion of people directly engaged in the oil & gas industry, which is suffering about the biggest part of the downturn at this time, and it’s more magnified on the B.C. side of the border. I would think that would be a contributing factor.”
Griffith also said that the high unemployment rate in the Fort Nelson area could also skew the numbers in our region. “If you take the Fort Nelson area, it’s really really quiet at present time, because they lost their forest industry in 2007. The shale gas development filled that gap for ten years filled that gap to a large extent. But now with the downturn of the oil & gas, they are really being hard-hit up there.”