By Kate Wright

New Brunswick is enjoying one of the strongest employment rates in the country, a Statistics Canada report found yesterday. New Brunswick was the only Atlantic province to record a significant increase in employment since the beginning of the year.

Since December 2006, 7,000 more people have joined the workforce, a jump of 1.9 per cent. There were 361,000 New Brunswickers on the job last month, up from 359,000 in May 2006. There were 3,000 less New Brunswickers looking for work than this time last year, with the unemployment rate dropping since the beginning of the year.

Statistics Canada spokesman Vincent Ferrao said the growth represents a solid employment trend that is significantly above the national average, which only increased by one per cent.
British Columbia led the country with an employment growth of two per cent since December.
New Brunswick surpassed Alberta’s employment figures, a traditional frontrunner in employment growth, said Ferrao.
Alberta had employment growth of 1.8 per cent.

“New Brunswick is among the strongest in growth in Canada year to date,” said Ferrao. “It is the only province in Atlantic Canada to have such big gains.” Within New Brunswick, Metro Moncton is still leading the province in jobs, despite a slight decrease in work from this time last year.

There are now 66,400 Monctonians holding jobs, down 3,200 from May 2006. The unemployment rate also dropped, from 4,800 unemployed to 4,000. In Saint John, there were 2,000 more people on the job, up from 62,600 workers last May. Over 500 people found work, bringing the unemployment rate from 6.6 per cent to 5.1 per cent. In Fredericton, there were 5,000 new workers joining the workforce, bringing the city’s employment rate to 50,000 workers, or 69.5 per cent. The unemployment rate dropped, with 800 people finding work.

Jobs boomed in the accommodation and food service sectors, while jobs in culture and recreation also grew. Ferrao said growth in these industries could reflect students joining the summer workforce.

Charles Cirtwill, acting president of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, said impressive growth in Metro Moncton has created a trickle down effect for higher employment. He said New Brunswick’s innovative businesses and industries are also reaping rewards.

“It’s a reflection of the strength in the economy and higher employment figures are a residual effect of that,” he said.

But from April to May, the province lost over 1,000 jobs. Samuel LeBreton, senior economist with Service Canada, said the loss isn’t a major decline and simply reflects a cooling off in some industries.

“We shouldn’t be concerned yet, it’s the first time that number has been going down,” he said. “Since last September we’ve been in an upward trend and year over year, we seem to be improving.”

He said the numbers likely reflect industry’s adjustment to the high Canadian dollar and the evening out of sampling figures.

Cirtwill said the closure of the UPM Miramichi lumber mill will likely be reflected by a slip in the coming month’s employment figures. He said growth in other sectors, such as expanded scoping for the second oil refinery in Saint John, will represent gains in the province’s employment figures.