Yukon had lowest unemployment rate in Canada for half of 2016

Yukon’s unemployment rate was the lowest in Canada for six out of 12 months last year, Statistics Canada data shows.

Yukon’s unemployment rate was the lowest in Canada for six out of 12 months last year, Statistics Canada data shows.

In December 2016, Yukon’s unemployment rate was 4.6 per cent. The second-lowest rate was British Columbia’s, at 5.8 per cent. Newfoundland and Labrador and Nunavut had by far the highest unemployment rates in Canada in December, at 14.9 and 14 per cent, respectively.

“We are doing well, employment-wise,” said Gary Brown, senior information officer with the Yukon Bureau of Statistics.

But he cautioned that Yukon having the lowest unemployment in Canada says more about the flagging economies of the prairie provinces than it does about our own. Unemployment in Alberta, for instance, has jumped from 4.7 per cent in December 2014 to 8.5 per cent two years later.

The Yukon’s GDP shrank for three consecutive years prior to 2016, and the territory’s mining sector continues to struggle.

But Brown said that “outside of mining, the other areas of the economy are strong.”

Sectors including retail, wholesale trade, construction and real estate sales are all growing, he said.

Employment also seems to be holding strong through the winter, he said, in part because of major construction projects like the Whistle Bend continuing care centre, the Whitehorse General Hospital expansion and the new Salvation Army building.

Then there is the government.

“The one thing that is consistent up here is the government workforce,” Brown pointed out.

He said about 40 per cent of the Yukon workforce is employed by one of the four levels of government in the territory — federal, territorial, municipal and First Nations.

The Yukon also has among the largest labour forces relative to its population in the country, Brown said, mainly because the territory has a lower proportion of seniors than other jurisdictions.

He said nearly 77 per cent of the population aged 15 and older is in the workforce, compared with 66 per cent nationally.

Over the last 10 years, the Yukon’s population and the number of people employed has increased. But the overall unemployment rate also increased from below five per cent in 2006 to 6.3 per cent in 2015, with fluctuations in between.

Brown warned that there can be a lot of variation in the statistics from month to month, because of the Yukon’s small population.

He said the annual employment figures for 2016 will be ready at the end of the month.

Contact Maura Forrest at maura.forrest@yukon-news.com

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