The northeast has grown by more than 5,000 workers since 2005, according to the latest data from Statistics B.C.
Not surprisingly, much of the roughly 16 per cent increase in the past seven years has to do with the increasing oil and gas operations throughout the region. However, a few non-energy-related job categories have seen declines recently.
On Feb. 15, the provincial statistics bureau released information about who is employed where in the northeastern part of B.C., based on a survey of employers in the area.
In 2005, about 34,200 people were employed in all occupations in the northeast, according to Statistics B.C. By 2012, this number increased to 39,700 people.
Trade jobs, which include a lot of oil and gas jobs, saw a significant jump. From 8,400 people employed in the area in 2005, the number grew to 10,200 by last year.
The statistics also do not take into account the “shadow population” of workers that may come into the Northeast. While the official 2011 Census count put the population of Dawson Creek at around 11,000, Mayor Mike Bernier said earlier that this did not reflect the city’s true population.
“We say that we’re around 13,000 because they don’t take into consideration our “shadow” population,” Bernier said. “Those are people living in hotels or RVs that are truly citizens utilizing our systems and community, but they’re not captured as residents.”
A similar situation also exists in Fort St. John.
In the Peace Region’s case, this can include workers who may reside in Alberta, but come across the border seeking to work on the oil and gas operations in the region. It also does not take into account the number of people who may live in the northeast portion of B.C. but travel to Alberta for work.
However, other employers in the area did not see more employees hired during this time. About 8,300 people were employed in the sales and service occupations during 2005. In 2012, there were 8,200 people employed in this sector.
More health workers have also come into the area since 2005, but specifics were not available by Statistics B.C. as the number was considered too small to be counted at the time. In 2005, the number of health workers was less than 1,500. In 2012, that number had increased to 1,900 people.
However, this represents a decrease from the number of healthcare workers present within northeastern B.C. since 2011. That year, the province saw 2,300 people employed.
Northern Health spokeswoman Eryn Collins said that the decrease between the 2011 and 2012 numbers could not be attributed to a downsizing of Northern Health officials.
The sales and service sectors were the only areas that saw a decrease in employees. In 2005, 8,300 people were employed in these types of work. In 2012, that number decreased to 8,200 people.
In some sectors, such as the fast-food service area, this has caused employers to rely more heavily on temporary foreign workers.
“I have heard from many local employers about labour shortages in our region and the difficulties they have faced in hiring temporary foreign workers to meet these employment demands,” Bob Zimmer, MP for Prince-George Peace River, said earlier last year.