Overall employment fell by 11.8 per cent in the Kootenays in 2014 according to a recent report by the Chartered Professional Accountants of BC (CPABC).
The area had been experiencing a steady rise in jobs for three consecutive years, but the losses from 2014 exceed the 8,400 jobs created between 2011-2013. The report blames much of the decline on the weakened construction industry.
“In particular, the construction industry lost about four-tenths of its workforce,” Mike Calder, a chartered professional accountant said. “This is partly due to the completion of several major projects in the region.”
The report suggests that four main construction projects should boost employment for the rest of 2015.
The biggest prospective project listed is Jumbo Glacier Resort, which is set to cost $900 million. However, plans for the resort have yet to be approved due to widespread concerns about the safety of buildings in or near an avalanche zone and pushback from many environmental and community groups in the area.
Regardless of whether Jumbo is approved, Susan Clovechok, the executive director of the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce, said there is a lot of hope for employment rates in the valley.
“In speaking with members representing a variety of industries over the last few weeks, they say there are many job vacancies in the Columbia Valley,” Clovechok said. “Employers in food services, trades and construction are actively seeking employees.”
In addition, Clovechok said mining and forestry sectors continue to be stable economic drivers for valley residents. According to the CPABC report, 1,300 new jobs were created in forestry, fishing, mining, and oil and gas in 2014.
On a particularly positive note, the report found that business bankruptcies in the area reached the lowest total in decades. Only three bankruptcies were declared in 2014.
Both Clovechok and the CPABC report predict employment rates will rise once again in 2015 to closer to where they were before the 11.8 per cent decrease.
“The most recent labour market indicators are showing that employment in our region has recovered slightly,” Calder said. “This is driven by improvements in the construction, trade, and accommodation and food services industries.”