It must be frustrating to be working for the provincial government and trying to convince the federal government of the need for a step change in the number of immigrants to New Brunswick. They are haggling over “a few hundred more” of Canada’s 280,000 (or whatever the number is) when we really need is thousands more.
Take a look at the following chart. The size of the labour market in New Brunswick expanded steadily in the post WW2 period even though a lot of NBers moved way. The chart shows the growth in the labour market after the effects of any outward migration. Between 1976 and 1984, the labour market expanded by more than 39,000 people (either working or looking for work). Between 1984 and 1994, it expanded by 42,600 and the next decade saw a 44,900 person rise. In the last 10 years the total labour market – employed and looking for work – grew by only 4,000. Even this is showing a rosier picture than it should. Between 2009 and 2014 the size of the labour market declined by 3,900.
If you look at the younger labour market, it has been in steep decline. Between 1994 and 2014, the total number of people aged 25-44 in the labour market declined to the point that the gains between 1984 and 1994 were wiped out. In other words, in 1984 there were 154,100 people aged 25-44 in the NB workforce. In 2014 there were 154,600.
And just about everyone is focused on the short term mobility and unemployment data in New Brunswick. We are missing the forest for the trees. The expanding labour market in New Brunswick for decades drove at least a moderate employment and GDP growth rate. Sure there was a surplus and those folks moved away to other provinces and beyond but net of that there were still tens of thousands more coming into the workforce boosting export-oriented industries and local, consumer spending-based industries.
In my opinion, the provincial and federal government should look to foster labour market expansion by similar levels as past decades. This would rebalance our demographic situation and allow for employment expansion, GDP growth and the boosting of tax revenues.
Sure we will continue to see some outward migration to other provinces but you could bake that into your planning.
I’m not suggesting this will be easy but unless we start talking about the forest, our focus on the trees will keep us locked in a long term period of economic stagnation.