New Brunswick’s unemployment rate dropped below the national average for the first time since 1976 last month. A combination of 2,400 people leaving the workforce coupled with an increase of 2,900 jobs made for this 1.2 percentage point drop in the unemployment rate.
That’s good news. There is no doubt about it but the unemployment rate only tells one angle. Our employment growth over the past has been well below the national average (2% compared to 3.5%) and since Bernard Lord came to power in 1999, employment growth has been third worst among the 10 provinces in Canada.
I know that McKenna used to talk about record employment growth and Premier Lord used to talk about leading the country in growth and so does Premier Graham. But when the rubber meets the road, we have had some growth (18k call centre jobs for one) but much of what is driving the lowering of the unemployment rate also relates to out-migration and the lack of natural population growth. If New Brunswick had witnessed zero out-migration (the in versus out was zero), our unemployment rate would still be 13% or higher.
Let me give you two numbers. The first is 37,107. That is the natural increase in population since 1991 if we had remained at 1991 birth/death levels. The second number is 23,259. That is the net loss to out-migration since 1991. In other words, if everything else remained constant (immigration, etc.), New Brunswick’s population today would be over 60,000 higher if we had kept our people from leaving for work and if we had maintained our birth/death rates from 1991.
So assuming the same labour force to population ratio, that would add over 33,000 to our workforce.
I know this is back of the napkin calculus but you get the point. The drop in unemployment is due at least as much to out-migration and lack of natural population growth as the fantastic employment growth.