Slower economic activity to be expected in Northwest BC
Northwest BC, which is made up of the Nechako and North Coast development regions, had a rough year in 2016, after strong economic growth in 2015:
1. Construction activity declined, as major project development slowed. The economic momentum from proposed LNG projects also came to a standstill, due to market uncertainty and declining fuel prices.
2. Reduced economic activity led to job losses in Northwest BC; therefore, the region’s unemployment rate increased to 7.7%, above the provincial average of 6.0%. There was an overall decline in full-time jobs, which meant more individuals struggled to make ends meet, as evidenced by an increase in reported consumer insolvencies.
3. It was not all bad news for Northwest BC. The Red Chris Mine achieved its first full year of production, the newly modernized Kitimat aluminum smelter also ramped up to full production, and a small silver mine near the Yukon border began operations late in the year.
Continued operations at the aforementioned mines, and the opening of the Brucejack Mine later this year, should bring economic activity to the region. Still, it is expected that the region will see slower overall economic activity this year. The forestry industry may continue to see reduced demand due to the US tariff on softwood lumber. Also, construction activity will likely slow down in the region, as major resource projects remain stalled. In fact, employment in the region fell by another 1,400 jobs over the first quarter of 2017.