Moving to a 'Have' Province?

Article excerpt

Manitoba ends year with 11,900 more jobs

manitoba's job-creation performance in 2012 was so good people are talking again about what it could take for Manitoba to become a "have" province.

After significant swings up and down in September and October, the province produced two consecutive months of 5,000-plus new jobs to end the year with 11,900 additional people working in the province.

"The December numbers are surprisingly strong," said Michael Benarroch, dean of the Asper School of Business at the University of Manitoba.

"The participation rate is as high as it's been since 2007. People are coming back into the labour force. The population has been growing steadily for five to six years and in spite of the population growth, we were able to create a sufficient number of jobs for those people. It's really positive for our province."

The surge in December brought the unemployment rate down to 5.2 per cent at the end of the year. It had been as high as 5.6 per cent as recently as October.

Even though there is some caution heading into 2013 because of a provincial deficit, the recent strength in the employment scene has some experts thinking Manitoba could be on to something.

"The private sector is growing at a time when the public sector is being careful," Benarroch said. "In a perfect world, we have both at the same time but that's not how things always work."

John McCallum, an economist at the U of M, has been a sharp critic of the performance of the provincial economy, which he believes is too reliant on the public sector. Even he's encouraged by strong workforce activity.

"I think if you could ring me up in three years and say that we had put up four years of two per cent job growth per year, then things would be looking a whole lot better here," he said.

Manitoba's employment grew by 1.9 per cent in 2012 compared with 1.8 per cent across the country.

The construction industry added 3,500 positions in December, Statistics Canada said.

For the year, the sector grew by 5,700 jobs, a 13.3 per cent increase.

Industry officials realize things have gone well but are taking nothing for granted. There's concern large public-sector projects that have fuelled the growth are ending.

Peter Withoos, vice-president of the Winnipeg Construction Association and part of the ownership group of M.D. Steele Construction Ltd., said, "We were somewhat running out of work toward the end of last year. Some of the big projects are winding down but at the same time, there are a couple of major projects coming on stream soon."

He was referring to the $240-million Women's Hospital at Health Sciences Centre and a new hospital being tendered in Selkirk. …