By Kelsey Verboom
The latest regional employment statistics suggest the economy in the Kootenay region is gradually on the road to recovery, yet unemployment rates in the Kootenays remain the second highest in British Columbia.
After three consecutive years of job losses, the Kootenay labour market increased in 2011, according to BC Check-Up, Regional Edition.
Between 2008-2010, the Kootenay region (includes the Central and East Kootenay area) lost 7,300 jobs. In 2011, the market rallied and rose by 2,700 jobs, or 3.9 per cent. The increase in jobs was the third highest among the eight regions the statistics cover.
“Last year’s continued economic recovery was due mainly to growth in the Kootenay’s burgeoning service sector,” said Cindy Popescul, a chartered accountant with BDO Canada, the company that compiled the statistics.
“Looking ahead, as ground breaks on a number of major new projects, this positive economic momentum should continue into the coming year.”
However, the heavy losses during 2008-2010 still leave our region with the second highest unemployment rate in B.C.
Unemployment rates declined from 9.3 per cent to 8.2 per cent between 2010-2011, compared to the provincial average of 7.6 per cent to 7.5 per cent.
The report attributes a portion of the still lagging job situation to residual effects of the forest sector downturn. The statistics, which are from 2011, do not include any jobs created by Canfor’s recent announcement that the Radium sawmill will reopen.
Closely related to the forest industry, the Kootenay region saw 800 additional jobs created in the construction industry. There were no statistics available for the Columbia Valley specifically.
“While work opportunities for contractors diminished due to fewer building permits, new major project construction and commercial developments generated increased employment for construction workers,” Ms. Popescul said in a news release.
A slight increase in financial security in the region also led to modest growth in the Kootenay’s real estate market.
“There was some easing of HST on second homes, where those buying a second home could claim an HST credit. In Invermere where second homes are many, this likely had an effect on the real estate market,” Ms. Popescul told The Pioneer.
Major project developments currently underway in the region, like hydroelectric dams, ski resorts, and golf course developments, totalled $3.8 billion. However, the total value of all major project investment (some not yet being built) declined slightly from 6.9 billion to $6.7 billion, when comparing the fourth quarters of 2010 and 2011, the report stated. The recently approved $450 million Jumbo Glacier Resort is not included in the statistics.
Region-wide, the services-production sector saw the greatest increase in jobs, growing by 4,000 jobs (services producing jobs are jobs that provide a service for a fee. For example: landscaping).
The employment rate in accommodation and food services, a sector with major impact locally, where golf courses, ski hills, pubs, and restaurants dot the valley, experienced a 1,200 job boost in the Kootenays.
The youth labour force fell by 12 per cent, meaning there was an opening of jobs for workers aged 18-24. This caused the youth unemployment rate to repair itself by 2.8 per cent, for a total of 6.8 per cent.
To view the full report, go to www.bccheckup.com