Although the latest job numbers for New Brunswick can be used to paint an optimistically pretty picture of the province’s performance, multiple economic observers said they see a bigger picture from a step back.
For the first time in more than three decades New Brunswick’s unemployment rate, 8.1 per cent, was below the national average of 8.4 per cent in September.
Charles Cirtwill, executive vice-president of Halifax-based public policy think-tank Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, said the numbers aren’t enough to insight celebration.
“One month of performance is nice,” he said. “I’d like to see six before I get excited.”
David Chaundy, senior economist for the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, another Halifax-based think-tank, agreed.
“I wouldn’t make a big deal about one month change,” he said. “The employment has been up and down – quite irregular the last few months.”
Though his view of the numbers didn’t involve a giant ray of sunshine, it wasn’t a dark and story night either.
“The overall trend seems to be fairly stable,” Chaundy said. “The province has held up quite well.”
University of New Brunswick economics professor David Murrell pointed out the comparative record can be partially credited to poor performance in other provinces which have yet to recover to the degree New Brunswick has.
“The unemployment rate sky rocketed particularly in Ontario and then B.C.,” he said, later adding Alberta in to the list.
The unemployment rates for those three provinces are all roughly three percentage points higher than they were 12 months ago, where as New Brunswick’s is on par with last September.
“These provinces are more susceptible than the Maritimes are,” he said.
Because of the size of New Brunswick’s population, its economy doesn’t expand or shrink as much as other provinces.
“We’re a small province, only the size of a medium-sized city like Winnipeg,” he said. “My view of the recession in New Brunswick is we entered it sooner.”
He cited the province’s forestry sector – which has been in decline for a couple of years – as a leading cause for an earlier recession.
Murrell said he prefers to look at employment rather than unemployment as an indicator.
The province added 2,900 jobs to its economy from August to September bringing the total number of New Brunswickers with jobs to 367,800, or 59.1 per cent of the working age population.
The boost in employment helped lower the unemployment rate, but so did the 2,300 people that stopped working, or gave up looking.
Cirtwill suggested the slightly slimmer work force could be a result of unemployed workers taking advantage of government incentives for education and training.
“Instead of going to work they’ve gone to school – that’s actually not a bad thing,” he said. “They’ll be better workers after the recession.”
University enrolment figures will be out soon, but both UNB and St. Thomas University indicated little change in the number of new students this September. A call to the New Brunswick Community College’s head marketing office was not returned Tuesday.
Mike Quinn, a counsellor at the Saint John regional employment centre, suggested the numbers could simply indicate students leaving their summer jobs.
But he said his office has been busy helping people with the necessary steps to go back to school.
“Any time there’s a bit of a downturn you’re going to see a lot more people going back to school,” he said.