Someone asked me this and when I said we would need another 50,000 to 70,000 people working right now in New Brunswick (or about the entire employment base currently in the Saint John CMA), I got an incredulous response.
While economists will haggle over the definition of full employment – no one completely agrees – a simple calculation will bear out my estimate. On a seasonally adjusted basis, there are just over 350,000 people currently working in New Brunswick. If we assume the employment rate in Alberta and Saskatchewan represents fairly close to full employment and if we apply that employment rate here we would need between 400,000 and 420,000 people working in New Brunswick right now – or we would need to double the size of employment in the entire Saint John CMA.
Sure, New Brunswick is a little older than Alberta. Sure, we are a little more seasonal in our industries (somewhat smoothed out in the data by the seasonal adjustment). But at the end of the day, if our economy was as robust as theirs, it is reasonable to expect we would have a similar employment rate and we would need upwards of 70,000 more people working here.
70,000 people at the average wage would generate $2.94 billion in new employment income and likely around $1 billion in new taxes for the various levels of government which would slay the NB deficit and then some. Of course, the feds would claw most of it back through equalization but it’s all just a fantasy anyway so let’s just keep dreaming for a moment.
If 40,000 of the 70,000 came out of the EI or social assistance programs, it would save governments conservatively another $360 million per year in reduced benefit payments.
It’s worth thinking about this if for no other reason than to show what could be possible.