1,700 new part-time jobs pull N.B. jobless rate down slightly

New Brunswick's unemployment rate declined to 8.4 per cent in March as the economy added about 100 full-time jobs and 1,700 part-time jobs, according to Statistics Canada's monthly labour force report released Friday.

This time last year, 600 jobs were lost in March, pushing the unemployment rate up to 10.2 per cent in New Brunswick, from 8.9 per cent the month before.

The Canadian labour force grew by 19,400 jobs in March, an increase of 0.1 per cent, according to Statistics Canada.

Good growth?

Herb Emery, the Vaughan chair in regional economics at the University of New Brunswick, suggested there are different ways to look at the dip in the province's jobless rate in March.

"If you're getting a reduced unemployment rate because of part-time jobs, it's better, but it's not what people think of as good growth in employment opportunity," said Emery.

More jobs might be coming to New Brunswick compared to this time last year, but it's also possible the participation rate has fallen.

"Fewer people are looking, which means there's fewer people to count as unemployed," he said. "The New Brunswick economy is not growing in terms of population or [Gross Domestic Product]. 

"Growth is essentially zero in real terms in this province."

- New Brunswick unemployment rate declines, but 3,000 fewer people working 

- New Brunswick's jobless rate jumps to 9.4% in December 

Within New Brunswick, March unemployment rates ranged from a low of 3.2 in Edmundston-Woodstock to a high of 11.5 per cent in Campbellton-Miramichi.

Across the province:

In the Moncton-Richibucto area, the jobless rate eased up to 10. 8 per cent from 10.5 per cent in February. It was 10 per cent this time last year.  

In the Fredericton-Oromocto area, the rate was 4.9 per cent, up from 4.5 per cent in February, but down significantly from 7.2 per cent this time last year.

In the Saint John-St. Stephen area, the unemployment rate was 6.4 per cent, down from 7.1 per cent in February and 8.9 per cent a year ago.

In the Campbellton-Miramichi area, the rate rose from 11 per cent in February to 11.5 per cent in March, down from 12.6 per cent in March 2016.

In the Edmundston-Woodstock, the jobless rate was at 3.2 per cent, up from 2.9 per cent in February. This time last year the jobless rate was 3.7 per cent.

Emery said the latest jobs report reflects population distribution within the province, different opportunities and a mis-measuring of where people are earning their incomes. 

"We have a sizeable commuting population in New Brunswick," he said. "They're flying out West to work, so there's a sense in which these numbers are hard to tease out in context of a non-growing economy.

"What's driving the increase in employment and what's driving the decrease in participation?"