NWT sheds 1,200 jobs, despite promise of economic boom

NWT sheds 1,200 jobs, despite promise of economic boom
A transport barge hauls industrial equipment into the Sahtu via the Mackenzie. Industry Minister Dave Ramsay is blaming the halt in oil and gas exploration in the region for the downturn in employment in the NWT, though the majority of job losses fall within the public sector.Photo: Alasdair Veitch.

The Northwest Territories has shed 1,200 jobs since August last year, almost all of them in the public sector, according to a report from the NWT Bureau of Statistics.

A quarterly labour market bulletin produced by the federal government tells much the same story, pegging job loss in the NWT at 1,500 over the last 18 months.

The trend is in sharp contrast to the territorial government’s claims about the potential benefits of devolution and the transfer of federal jobs to the territorial public service.

In welcoming devolution, Premier Bob McLeod said last year that it would “help transform the Northwest Territories economy and create jobs and opportunities for our residents, especially if it is supported by an efficient and effective regulatory system that promotes investment.”

The territorial government gave ConocoPhillips and Husky Oil the go ahead to conduct horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing in the Sahtu, but both companies have shelved their exploration plans – putting the ambitions of many small contractors on hold.

But most of the job losses have come in the public sector, according to the bureau report. It states that the public sector has lost 1,000 jobs since August 2013 while the private sector shed 200 jobs in the same period.

The report runs counter to Industry Minister Dave Ramsay’s assessment of the situation.

Questioned about the losses, Ramsay said in an email that “fluctuations in demand for labour in the NWT are primarily driven by industrial activity and exploration in the non-renewable resource sector.

“With the pause in oil and gas exploration in the Sahtu, and minimal mine construction, employment numbers have dropped,” Ramsay told The Journal.

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  • Jack Danylchuk
    September 9, 2014, 5:30 PM

    The ‘interpretation’ came directly from the NWT Bureau of Statistics, and Dave Ramsay.

    REPLY
  • MDevine
    September 9, 2014, 3:31 PM

    This article is misleading and overblown. Monthly labour force reports are snapshots in time. According to the NWT Bureau of Stats report cited in the article, “seasonal [not necessarily full-time, full-year] employment in 2014 is lower than it has been in previous years.” Thus, there are 1,200 less employed in August 2014 than in August 2013. Some part of the difference could be accounted for by the fact that the GNWT and federal government are hiring fewer summer students than in previous years. Further, these results are not inconsistent with Minister Ramsay’s comment that “fluctuations in demand for labour in the NWT are primarily driven by industrial activity,” given that some proportion of public administration jobs depend on industrial activity. I also note that the August 2014 employment figures are actually higher than the figure for any month between December 2013 and June 2014 – so job numbers do appear to be increasing post-devolution. I’d like to see the Northern Journal get a neutral and exact interpretation of these reports from either the NWT Bureau of Statistics or from an independent statistician.

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