In Brief: Employment: Growth in retail, wholesale position has nearly 60% of NBers working. AIMS acting President Charles Cirtwill says it’s time for the government to recognize this trend and adjust its taxation policies accordingly.

New Brunswick saw the strongest job growth in the Atlantic region last month, fuelled by gains in the services sector, Statistics Canada reported Friday.

The provincial economy picked up 2,700 jobs between January and February, increasing the employment rate by .07 per cent to nearly 60 per cent.

The unemployment rate declined by a tenth of a percentage point during that period, hitting 8.1 per cent last month.

Nova Scotia shed 3,800 jobs in February, while Newfoundland and Labrador’s employment levels declined by 900 positions. Prince Edward Island saw a modest increase of 500 jobs.

Nationally, the employment rate hit a record high, at 63.9 per cent, as the country gained an estimated 43,000 jobs. The Canadian unemployment rate held steady at its 33-year low of 5.8 per cent.

In New Brunswick, the retail and wholesale trade sectors saw the largest job increases in February, boosting the labour by 2,900 workers, or 5.4 per cent. Employment in educational services grew by 2,200 jobs, a 9.2 per cent gain.

These increases offset losses in the finance, insurance, real estate and leasing sectors, which saw a loss of 1,100 jobs, down 6.6 per cent.

The largest decline occurred in the “other services” group of employers, which includes civic organizations and repair, maintenance and laundry services. Employment in that group plunged by 1,400 jobs, a 7.7 per cent loss.

The southern regions of the province, meanwhile, saw major employment gains.

The southeastern region, including Moncton, saw a year-over-year job increase of 7,700 workers in February, while employment in the Saint John region grew by 7,200.

“It looks like the numbers are really positive, especially in certain regions of the province that have been growing quite fast,” said Samuel LeBreton, senior economist with Service Canada, referring the southern half of the province.

“Those areas are the engines that are helping the labour market this year.”

The latest employment figures come a few days after Statistics Canada released a labour market study gleaned from 2006 Census data. That report showed industrial sectors, including manufacturing, forestry and fishing, saw a decline of 4,200 jobs between 2001 and 2006.

The declines came as the services industries stage across-the-board increases, signalling an ongoing transition in the provincial economy.

Charles Cirtwill, of the Atlantic Institute of Market Studies, has said the government must recognize this trend and adjust its taxation policies accordingly.

Energy Minister Jack Keir, who spoke on behalf of the provincial education, training and labour department, said the government will monitor the trend, but he stopped short of promising any legislative changes.

“We don’t want to ignore the manufacturing and forestry sector,” he said. “The forestry sector has always been a main cog in the economy, and we want to make sure we help out those sectors that are in need right now.”

Keir said the latest employment report shows what the government is doing to support the growth of the services sector is working.

“We can always do more and we will continue to look at all of the sectors to see how best we can help,” he said. “And sometimes the best way the government can help is by staying out of the way.”