Northeast B.C.’s unemployment rate has risen into the double digits.
The region had a 10.1 per cent unemployment rate in November, according to Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey released Dec. 2.
The rate is the highest of B.C.’s 11 development regions, followed by the Kootenays, which saw an 8.9 per cent unemployment rate.
One year ago, Northeast B.C.’s unemployment rate was 7.6 per cent.
Unemployment has risen steadily in the northeast since late 2014, when the region entered a prolonged downturn brought on by a drop in oil and gas prices.
While commodity prices are improving and work on pipelines and gas plants appears to be ramping up, the region is still below the drilling activity levels seen in 2014, Dawson Creek and District Chamber of Commerce Director Kathleen Connolly said.
“There is a lot more activity than there was, but you have to remember if there are only 14 or 15 rigs drilling in the area, that’s only a small portion of where it was several years ago,” she said. “They’re just not hiring at the same rate they were.”
“The guys that are part of the drilling and exploration, the work still is just not what it used to be. Certainly there is some increase in activity, but not nearly where we need it to be for those guys to go back to work.”
Employment insurance claims have also risen sharply with the downturn. According to StatsCan, 1,120 people were collecting EI in Fort St. John in September—up from 440 during the same month in 2015. Dawson Creek also saw an increase of 220 to 410 claimants in the same timeframe.
Apartment vacancy rates are also on the rise. According to the CMHC, Dawson Creek and Fort St. John have rental vacancy rates of 19.1 and 30.7 per cent, respectively.
The unemployment rate is a three-month moving average, which minimizes fluctuations caused by seasonal work.
B.C.’s unemployment rate sat at 5.7 per cent, while the national average was 6.8.