Aboriginal workers bear brunt of economic decline

At the end of December, 21,100 persons were at work in the Northwest Territories – the lowest number in a decade and 1,000 fewer than 2004, according to NWT Statistics.

The report says 1,000 of the missing jobs were full-time positions, 200 were part-time. The public sector accounted for 900, the private sector for 500 of these.

Are these lost jobs? Or simply unfilled positions? How much of the employment drop is due to devolution and the handover of positions from the Feds to other levels of government? We haven’t seen any announcements of major job cuts in the public sector, so why such a dramatic drop?

NWT Statistics doesn’t really provide that sort of context for their numbers. The report (based on samples and averages over three months) simply refers to the number of people who are working/unemployed. They aren’t working, I posit, because the jobs they had aren’t there. The elimination of federal jobs is most likely being mirrored by the other governments: they no longer need complimentary positions in their own structures, and this further ripples through the private sector as well, as a “reverse multiplier” effect. Such changes tend to be absorbed, rather than announced.

In any event, the formerly employed withdraw from the workforce, make their own work (the report notes an increase in the ranks of the self-employed, from 1,600 to 1,800), or leave the territory. Over the past decade there have been significant workforce contractions in the mining and transportation sectors as well. The only area of real growth has been in the number of workers commuting to mining jobs from the rest of Canada.

To crunch the numbers further:

Males ended 2014 sharing their traditional perch atop of the NWT labour force with females. The ranks of both declined during the year: men by 900 to 10,900, and women by 300, to 10,300.  In December 2014, each accounted for 66.5 percent of those employed.

The monthly report noted that the unemployment rate in December was highest for “Aboriginal persons and those aged 15 – 24 years.”

The employment rate for Aboriginal persons dropped to 49 percent from 54.7 percent in December 2013. The employment rate for non-aboriginals declined one percent, to 82.2 percent.

The ranks of Aboriginal workers declined to 7,300 from 8,100; non-aboriginal to 13,900 from 14,300 in 2014.

The number of persons under aged 25 who were employed fell to 2,700 from 3,100, and the employment rate to 42.2 per cent from 47.7 per cent in December 2013.

There were 12,200 people working in Yellowknife last December, 400 fewer than a year previous. The number of people employed outside the capital dropped by 400, to 9,200.

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