GDP up, jobs down

The Yukon is losing jobs despite gains in its gross domestic product. In 2009, a grim year for most of North America, the territory was one of the few places where the GDP grew rather than fell. But the 1.

The Yukon is losing jobs despite gains in its gross domestic product.

In 2009, a grim year for most of North America, the territory was one of the few places where the GDP grew rather than fell.

But the 1.4 per cent growth in the GDP, which hit $1.445 billion last year, didn’t produce jobs in the Yukon.

In fact, we lost around 600 of them last year. And the trend is getting worse.

“(GDP and unemployment) are not tied at the hip,” said Keith Halliday, a local economist.

In most cases, more production of goods means companies are expanding and hiring.

But following recessions, businesses are still too skittish to hire.

“The remaining, smaller number of people who are working are working harder or more productively or on higher-value goods,” said Halliday.

“What happens is firms start to produce more stuff, but they’re still a little bit worried so they hold off on hiring.”

“So they may do more overtime, they may work their staff a bit harder, more output goes up, GDP goes up, but employment stays flat or even goes down.”

The 2009 figures were released in the Economic Development Department’s 2010 Economic Outlook paper this week.

But unemployment, which grew to 6.8 per cent from five per cent last year, appears to be worsening this year.

The number of jobless Yukoners rose to 10.9 per cent this April, the highest level in years.

But thanks to a growing population, the high unemployment could be tied to a shrinking job pool and not lost jobs.

The average annual population for the Yukon grew 2.2 per cent in 2009 to 34,124, says the 2010 Economic Outlook.

The paper also tabled figures on the mining, tourism, construction and retail industries.

Mine exploration dropped from $110 million in expenditures in 2008 to $90 million last year, despite big discoveries in the White Gold district south of Dawson City by Underworld Resources in its spring 2009 drill program.

Mine development in that period grew nearly eight times, thanks to work at Capstone’s Minto mine, Alexco’s Bellekeno site and Yukon Zinc’s Wolverine mine.

The number of American tourists visiting the territory fell last year. There was actually an increase in cars crossing the border into Yukon, but there were 18,709 fewer visitors in motor coaches.

And construction in the territory nearly doubled. The value of all building permits in 2009 was $158.3 million. However, these numbers can be sketchy since they’re gathered from several different sources by the Economic Development Department, which means they are evaluated differently. And some projects may not be included in the statistics because they don’t require permits.

The 2010 Outlook predicts some lofty growth for the Yukon this year, including a three to four per cent jump in GDP. Two major mines are scheduled to go into production and the Yukon Energy Corporation is beginning construction on Mayo B, its largest construction project ever.

But Outside factors are likely to shake up these predictions, and these are still an open book, said Halliday.

“The question for us now is whether we have a robust recovery with employment and output,” he said.

“The consensus is the Canadian and even the American economy are doing rather well,” he said. “But now there are some downsides here from the debt crisis in Europe.

“That might shrink the European economy, affect our exports and affect our economy.

“We’re still at a critical juncture.”

Contact James Munson at

jamesm@yukon-news.com