New employment figures from Statistics Canada reveal a sagging job market in New Brunswick, prompting one economist to conclude the province has yet to exit the recession.

Statistics Canada‘s Labour Force Survey, released Friday, shows that New Brunswick‘s workforce dropped by 2,500 in September. The losses, in sectors such as transportation, warehousing, insurance and real estate, completely wiped out modest gains from August and July.

Over the past year, the province has shed 5,600 jobs, a dip of 1.5 per cent. In fact, New Brunswick is the only province to post an overall loss of jobs over the past 12 months, with a loss of 3,500 positions in the manufacturing sector alone. In contrast to New Brunswick‘s decline, the Canadian job market expanded 2.1 per cent over the last 12 months.

“There are fewer people working in New Brunswick,” said Statistics Canada analyst Vincent Ferrao on Friday. “They didn’t leave the labour force, they left their job. Maybe they were laid off or maybe they left voluntarily. But there was a loss in employment.”

Currently, the unemployment rate in New Brunswick sits at 9.8 per cent, well above the Canadian average of eight per cent.

“The numbers are pretty bad,” concludes University of New Brunswick economist David Murrell. “My view is that New Brunswick is not really out of the recession yet.”

The problem, says Murrell, is that New Brunswick‘s export-driven economy is largely tied to the American housing sector, which is in “terrible” shape and could take three more years to recover. The scraping of plans for a second Irving Oil refinery has also taken “a lot of wind out of the economy”, he said.

A smaller New Brunswick workforce is going to make the province’s dire fiscal position even more tenuous, argues Charles Cirtwill, head of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies.

Fewer people working means less tax revenue and increased demand for social assistance and training and education programs, he said. “Your costs are going up and your revenues are going down,” said the think-tank president and CEO. “It’s going to be remarkably difficult for the Conservatives to meet their promise of balancing the budget before the next election. I don’t see how it’s going to happen.”

And Cirtwill says the Tories have little power to reverse the dour labour market, except through making the province more competitive for businesses.

“No politician has ever created a job. They don’t hire people. Companies and entrepreneurs hire people,” he said. “Unless they’re starting up three new departments, they can’t honestly come out and take credit for creating any jobs.”

Overall, the Statistics Canada numbers reveal that September brought employment declines in Ontario, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, while Quebec, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador posted gains.

The national unemployment rate fell slightly to eight per cent as fewer people, particularly youth, participated in the labour market, the agency said.

Employment in Prince Edward Island declined by 2,200 in September, while Newfoundland and Labrador posted employment gains of 4,900. In Nova Scotia, employment rose by 3,500 in September.