Northern Development CEO, Joel McKay, presents the 2019 State of the North Economic Report at the B.C. Natural Resources Forum Thursday morning in Prince George.
Report sheds light on the positive impact of major energy projects in the region, but indicates ongoing challenges in forestry and highlights the transitioning rural economy
January 30, 2020
PRINCE GEORGE – The 2019 State of the North Economic Report published today highlights a wealth of new data on Northern B.C.’s key sectors, including regional profiles.
The report, which was independently researched by MNP, indicates the short-term outlook for the northern economy is mixed at best as the region welcomes significant energy investment thanks to Site C and LNG Canada, but is challenged with a deepening decline in the interior forest sector.
The unemployment rate in the region remains 1.1 per cent higher in Northern B.C. than the B.C. total, but is still relatively low at 5.8 per cent overall, with improvements in the Northwest and North Central region in the first nine months of 2019 compared with 2018.
On a sector by sector basis, the short-term outlook for mining, oil and gas and tourism is up, while agriculture remains unknown due to trade concerns and weather patterns and forestry is expected to continue to decline.
For this year’s report, MNP included new data that highlights the transition in B.C.’s rural economy. The data shows that although natural resource sectors continue to generate significant GDP for the province, employment in those sectors has been on a continual decline over the past generation as each sector automates and adopts new technology for more efficient operations.
The outlook to 2040, on a region by region basis, points to shifting demographics and slower population growth in the north compared with B.C. as a whole as urban areas in the southwest corner of the province are expected to continue to see outsize growth in the years ahead.
Despite these challenges, the near-term outlook for the north sees an upside forecast in new business formations and housing starts, signalling that major projects, primarily led by the oil and gas sector, are driving development in key parts of Northern B.C.
“This year’s report really sheds light on what we’ve been hearing anecdotally for years – that the rural economy is transitioning to a new mode of operation, albeit at a slower pace than Canada’s major urban centres,” said Joel McKay, Chief Executive Officer. “For us, it highlights the continued need to support our natural resource sectors wherever possible, invest in diversification and knowledge-based job opportunities and support our communities to ensure they’re attractive, vibrant places well-positioned for long-term sustainability.”
Director, Communications and Marketing
Northern Development Initiative Trust