OTTAWA – New Brunswick is benefiting from the loss of jobs in Ontario’s manufacturing sector, especially in the auto industry, an analyst says.

Charles Cirtwill, executive vice-president of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, said Tuesday that, contrary to what he is hearing from New Brunswick, the influx of newcomers to the province is coming from Ontario, not Alberta.

“The skill sets that the people on the auto assembly lines have, those manual skills, those highly technical electronic skills, the capacity to deal with computers at a very high-quality, high-end manufacturing level, all of those skills are immediately transferable into the industries that are going into New Brunswick,” he said.

Cirtwill said national employment and economic figures are driven by conditions in Ontario and, although the Atlantic provinces are starting to feel the pinch, opportunities in the region, particularly in New Brunswick, have not been “significantly altered” by the economic downturn.

“The global recession hurt Ontario in ways that it didn’t hurt the rest of the country,” Cirtwill said, adding that it is likely people from Canada’s most populous province are moving home to New Brunswick for work, along with people looking to relocate altogether.

“For the first time, in my generation anyway, there are jobs and opportunities in Atlantic Canada that aren’t in Ontario.”

Cirtwill drew comparisons between the employment messages coming out of both Saskatchewan and New Brunswick.

“They have remarkable symmetry in what they’re saying,” he said, referring to New Brunswick’s pitches for its energy megaprojects and recruitment by Saskatchewan for its resource and technology industries.

Both provinces are “being very aggressive” by pursuing graduates and offering payment and tax incentives, but Cirtwill believes New Brunswick has the upper hand “in terms of take-home pay and the attractiveness of their tax structure.”

New Brunswick saw population growth from immigration during the fourth quarter of 2008 that it hasn’t seen since the mid-1970s.

According to Statistics Canada population estimates, New Brunswick’s population grew by 0.07 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2008. The province’s population grew by only 0.1 per cent between 2001 and 2006 in total. International and interprovincial immigration totalled 516 people for the final quarter in 2008, according to the agency’s figures.

Hubert Denis, a senior analyst with Statistics Canada, said the figures are preliminary and subject to change, so it is too early to report a trend in the province. The interprovincial numbers are subject to more revisions than the international numbers, but “there was an upward trend for New Brunswick and we saw that.”

Immigration numbers are increasing in nearly every province except Ontario, he said. That province used to attract more than 55 per cent of immigrants each quarter, but the number has dropped to about 45 per cent over the past five years, he said.

Denis said some quarterly results for New Brunswick have been “rarely seen in the past.”

International immigration to New Brunswick is on the rise, as the province saw positive numbers in every quarter in 2008, according to the agency’s figures.

A total of 804 people and 252 people arrived in the third and fourth quarters of 2008, respectively. In interprovincial migration, preliminary numbers indicated that New Brunswick went from losing 741 people in the third quarter to gaining 264 in the fourth, the agency said.

The combined interprovincial and international immigration number of 516 people in the fourth quarter of 2008 amounts to 366 more people than in the same period of 2007, Statistics Canada said.

The numbers appear to be better now than before the “Alberta boom,” Denis said, referring to the many Canadians who left provinces to work in Alberta prior to 2006.

Energy minister Jack Keir, who is acting for Population Growth Secretariat minister Greg Byrne as Byrne recovers from heart surgery, said the figures are “great news” because the province requires population growth to expand its tax base and build its revenues for government programs.

“We’re living in a different world than we did just four or five years ago,” he said. “In the past, we were always looking for jobs for our folks and now we’re looking for folks for those jobs.”

Meanwhile, Cirtwill said the province is moving in the right direction in terms of the economic growth statistics he has seen.

“Over the next couple of years, New Brunswick is just going to leap heads and shoulders above and ahead of everybody else.”