A new report from the Chartered Professional Accountants of BC (CPABC) reveals that the Kootenays continued to show signs of economic recovery in 2013.
The BC Check-Up, Regional Edition shows that for the third consecutive year, the region saw job creation, lower unemployment, and an increase in capital investment.
“As we continue to recover from the recession,” said Cindy Popescul, CPA, CA, with BDO Canada LLP in Cranbrook, “our economy is gaining strength, with continued expansions in the labour market putting the Kootneays ahead of other regions in the province in terms of job creation.”
The report found that in 2013, the Kootenays saw the addition of 3,100 new jobs. Regional employment swelled to 77,900, up by 4.1 per cent, surpassing the pre-recession high of 76,700 in 2007. This drove the region’s unemployment rate down to 5.2 per cent, which is the second lowest in the province in 2013 and below the provincial average of 6.6 per cent.
Job growth was largely driven by the services-producing sector. The trade industry added 1,800 jobs, while transportation and warehousing, and accommodation and food services industries added 1,000 new jobs each. Other significant service sector job gains were reported in finance, insurance, real estate and leasing, health care and social assistance, and information, culture and recreation industries. The health care and social assistance industry also grew substantially in the past five years, and has fuelled two thirds of the growth in the region’s service sector employment.
New developments in 2014 will continue to improve the Kootenay’s employment and economy. Several large projects have the potential to proceed, including the Jumbo Glacier Resort ($900 million), Teck’s water treatment facilities in Sparwood ($600 million), the Bingay Main Coal Project ($480 million), and Phase Two of Teck Coal’s Line Creek Mine ($140 million). These projects promise to generate substantial employment and economic benefits in the East Kootenay Regional District.
The economy will also be driven from increased global demand for B.C.’s resources, primarily in the forestry industry. Rising housing starts in the US and demand from China means continued demand for B.C. lumber.
However, a surplus of coal in world markets combined with slowing growth in China has further reduced coal prices during the first quarter of 2014, and some North American producers have cut back production and staff. Teck anticipates that production at its coal mines will remain on track this year, but some workforce reductions at its Elk Valley operations are expected as the company plans to trim its global workforce by 5 per cent to remain competitive. It is anticipated that the five East Kootenay operations will remain busy throughout 2014.
“The economy is on its path to full recovery,” continued Popescul, “however, we need to remain cautiously optimistic. The region’s high rate of consumer insolvencies confirms that not all of the Kootenay’s residents benefited from the improvements in the labour market. The tight job market also makes it challenging for young people to remain in the region and this poses a risk on permanently losing valuable human capital.”
The Kootenay Development Region comprises the Kootenay-Boundary, Central Kootenay, and East Kootenay Regional Districts, and accounts for nearly 3.2 per cent of the provincial population.