PRINCE GEORGE, British Columbia, June 14, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- After two years of employment losses, the Cariboo Development Region rallied in 2017 with 2,300 new jobs. According to the CPABC Regional Check-Up, an annual economic report by the Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia (CPABC), the region experienced a 2.9 per cent gain that propelled overall employment to 81,100 jobs. The rise of commodity prices and a stimulation of the region’s mining industry and job increases in the service sector accounted for much of this increase.

“The mining industry fared reasonably well in 2017. Higher prices for some metals, in particular gold and copper, stimulated mineral exploration and increased overall output at the region’s mines,” said Stan Mitchell, CPA, CA, partner at KPMG LLP in Prince George. “The Bonanza Ledge gold mine east of Quesnel re-opened in 2017 after being shuttered for two years, creating about 90 direct jobs and spin-off employment at local businesses.”

In addition, the Gibraltar and Mount Milligan mines are expected to continue production, as the price of commodities are expected to continue to improve. After some downtime in summer 2017 and winter 2018, Mount Milligan was able to resume operations at near full capacity in March, ahead of schedule, due to an earlier-than-expected thaw. These on-going mining activity should help offset current stalled operations at Mount Polley, where unionized employees have recently gone on strike as the two sides renegotiate their labour agreement that expired at end of 2017.

Last summer’s wildfires had a definite impact on our region’s economy. Employment in the region’s goods sector dipped to 22,200, a decline of 9.8 per cent from 2016. The disaster kept loggers out of the woods for the better part of the summer and dampened other forestry-related activities, resulting in layoffs in the forestry and logging industries. The construction industry also contracted by 700 jobs due to a slowing of commercial construction activity, a slowing of major project development, and temporary layoffs at the Site C project in Northeast B.C. that affected some of the Cariboo’s mobile workers.

“Unfortunately, the Cariboo also had a reduction of 200 jobs in its primary manufacturing industry of wood products,” added Mitchell. “A decline in lumber demand from the U.S., dwindling stocks of mountain pine beetle-killed woods, and temporary mill shutdowns and lower inventories during the wildfires reduced lumber shipments and spurred layoffs.”

While the region’s overall employment increased, this job gain should be interpreted with caution, as much of it was in response to emergency wildfire support. The Cariboo’s service sector reached 58,000 jobs in 2017, an 8.5 per cent increase from 2016. The largest gains were in health care and social assistance, which included support for individuals and families. Trade employment grew steadily through the latter half of 2017, ending the year with 14,400 jobs, and some of this gain could be attributed to higher consumer spending generated by purchases to support pilots, firefighters, volunteers, and displaced people.

“Looking ahead to the rest of 2018, our forestry industry will continue to face challenges from the softwood lumber dispute with the U.S., and the management of our region’s timber supply, particularly in respect of the pine beetle epidemic. However, record lumber prices are expected to continue this year and plans to further diversify into new markets may mitigate some of the anticipated losses,” continued Mitchell. “Activity in the mining industry, on the other hand, is expected to continue to thrive, with commodity prices remaining high. Additionally, the construction industry may see some pick-up in the upcoming years, as work is scheduled to commence in 2019 for a $800 million resort in Valemount, as well as work arising from the Site C Project, and pipeline and LNG related projects.”

About CPABC Regional Check-Up – Cariboo:

The CPABC Regional Check-Up reports look at British Columbia’s eight Development Regions as a place to work, invest, and live. The reports are available online at: www.bccheckup.com.

About CPA British Columbia
The Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia (CPABC) is the training, governing, and regulatory body for over 35,000 CPA members and 5,000 CPA students and candidates. CPABC carries out its primary mission to protect the public by enforcing the highest professional and ethical standards and contributing to the advancement of public policy. CPAs are recognized internationally for bringing superior financial expertise, strategic thinking, business insight, and leadership to organizations.

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