PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. – The 2020 State of the North Economic Report was released this week, featuring industry overviews, updates to projects, and analysis on Northern British Columbia’s four regions.
The report, conducted by Meyers Norris Penny, revealed that the short term outlook for the northern economy is uncertain due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In terms of employment, the Northeast region saw the highest percentage of goods sector employment in the north.
Transportation and warehouse sectors saw a decline in employment, where mining and the oil and gas sector experienced a bump up last year.
When Covid-19 hit, the Northeast region was hit hard by a decline in employment from February to June 2020. Construction dropped 56 per cent, and forestry and mining sectors dropped a combined 20 per cent.
The main factor in the drop in employment was caused by workforce reductions at Site C, as well as the temporary shutdown of mines and mills.
By October, forestry and mining recovered to pre-pandemic levels, but still lower than 2019. Construction has stagnated, and employment sits below pre-pandemic levels.
Before the pandemic, the Northeast Region had the lowest unemployment rate in the province at 4.2 per cent. That number jumped up to 10.7 per cent from April to June, and has since returned to the lowest rate in the province again, at 7 per cent.
The housing prices increased across the region for the second straight year, but it is still more affordable compared to the rest of the province.
The percentage of household income required for housing was around 22 per cent in 2019 in Fort St. John. With construction and mining activity increasing in the region, prices are expected to continue to rise.
According to Northern Development Initative Trust CEO Joel Mckay, British Columbia’s wealth of natural resources, infrastructure and supply chain all present opportunities for enormous investment that would generate real provincial GDP growth, new jobs, and significantly increased spending that would help with small business recovery.