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Less employment in government

While not especially grim, the NWT Bureau of Statistics update on the territory’s labour force doesn’t paint a picture of a booming region.

The territorial employment rate has dropped 3.5 per cent in the last 12 months due in part to less government employment but mostly to less people looking for work, according to the results of the NWT Bureau of Statistics’ August 2017 labour force activity survey.

Even in the summer, when the employment rate usually spikes with post-secondary students returning north from school, this year’s spike was less dramatic than in previous years, although this may be attributable to less students looking for work than less positions available.

According to Ngan Trinh, senior communications officer for the Department of Finance, there have been no changes to the GNWT’s summer student employment program.

“In spite of difficult fiscal times, the GNWT is committed to student employment,” she wrote in an email response to News/North’s questions, going on to say 349 students were employed this year.

In Hay River, town executive assistant Stacey Barnes said the municipality didn’t have any trouble funding summer student positions this year. “In fact, we were looking for summer students a lot of the summer,” says Barnes.

She said there hasn’t been any noticeable decrease in job opportunities in Hay River.

The territory’s employment rate was at 68.1 per cent as of August of this year. Any decrease has been outside of Yellowknife, as the report states the capital’s employment rate has remained unchanged. The employment rate is the ratio of the employed to the working-age population, so there are more factors in this number than just people not being able to find work.

In fact, at 1,400, the number of people unemployed, despite looking for work, has decreased from 1,900 in August 2016. The survey attributes much of this drop to people leaving the labour force – in other words, no longer looking for work.

The report states the number of people employed in the private sector, and self-employed, actually grew by 400 and 200 respectively, but those increases were offset by a decline in public service employment.

NWT Bureau of Statistics resource statistician Knox Makumbe said that because the numbers are so small, all data on public service jobs get lumped together and the bureau was unable to provide a breakdown of whether the decrease was mainly municipal, territorial or federal.

The survey, conducted by Statistics Canada as an extension of their national polling, does not include job vacancy rates to contrast its employment numbers.

Earlier this year, the GNWT released a belt-tightening budget which included job cuts. Sixty-five positions were to be eliminated in this fiscal year.

Trinh says these losses are to be offset by the creation of new jobs. That includes a forecast of 23 positions for the new health centre set to open this fall in Norman Wells, which will lead to 17 more positions total than last year.

“We will make every reasonable effort to retain affected employees as a part of the GNWT public service,” Trinh wrote.