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Kootenay economy is gaining momentum
Last year’s continued economic recovery was due mainly to growth in the Kootenay’s burgeoning service sector. Looking ahead, as ground breaks on a number of major new projects, this positive economic momentum should continue into the coming year.
According to the BC Check-Up, Regional Edition, after three years of job losses, the labour market in our region rallied in 2011. Employment rose by 2,700, or 3.9 per cent, a solid gain. Last year’s employment growth was driven by the services-producing sector, which saw an increase of 4,000 jobs. Full time positions accounted for two thirds of all job creation, suggesting an underlying strength in last year’s employment gains.
Employment in accommodation and food services grew by 1,200 jobs, reflecting a growing number of workers in both accommodation services and food and drinking establishments. Other industries posting sizeable gains included health care and social assistance, which grew by 1,000 jobs, and transportation and warehousing which posted 900 new jobs.
Last year we saw renewed growth in the construction industry, which resulted in a gain of 800 jobs. While work opportunities for contractors diminished due to less building permits, new major project construction and commercial developments generated increased employment for construction workers. Forestry, fishing, mining, and oil and gas also reported a modest improvement of 300 new jobs, as the number of workers involved in both logging, and mineral exploration and extraction activity increased.
The report also highlighted the fact that the Kootenay’s youth unemployment rate shrank by 2.8 percentage points in 2011, to reach 6.8 per cent; this drop may be explained by more young people choosing to attend full-time post-secondary training, or leaving the region in search of employment elsewhere. Regardless, this rate was the second lowest in the province and is 4.7 per cent lower than the provincial average
Investment indicators in our region are mixed. The value of major project construction underway jumped to $3.8 billion; however the total value of all major project investment declined slightly from $6.9 billion to $6.7 billion, when comparing the fourth quarters of 2010 and 2011.
Thirteen projects were underway in the fourth quarter of 2011, including the Waneta Hydroelectric Expansion Project ($900 million); the Hugh Keenleyside Dam Spillway Gate Upgrades ($94 million); the Red Mountain Ski Resort Expansion ($900 million); and the Wildstone Golf and Residential Development ($750 million).
Looking forward, major developments and projects that are ready to proceed are expected to sustain the positive economic momentum that began last year, particularly for construction workers. The Waneta Expansion Project will continue to generate employment until 2015; this, and many other projects, will be key generators of employment and economic benefits for years to come.