One of the most important public policy issues right now in New Brunswick is hardly being discussed at all – beyond a superficial level. Since a small growth spurt in the middle of the last decade, the New Brunswick economy has not created any net new jobs. The chart below goes all the way back to 1976 and as you can see total employment in the province had another relatively flat line back in the late 1980s/early 1990s but then came back again. The most recent period of employment stagnation has been much longer than any other period.
It raises two issues: a) what does a labour market that isn’t growing employment mean for overall economic growth? and b) can we sustain our public services and infrastructure expectations in a zero employment growth environment?
I talked to a government economist not that long ago that said we are going to have to get used to zero employment growth and even decline but didn’t have an answer to the question – what will that do to our economy?