Jobless rate

Provincial jobs minister Pat Bell has a chance to figure out what's wrong in the northwest

THE REVIEW by provincial officials into the northwest’s high jobless rate cannot be finished too soon.

It follows another month of double digit jobless figures, a situation which is, says provincial jobs minister Pat Bell who ordered the review, “a cause for concern, particularly given the level of economic activity that is taking place in the region.”

Now that’s an understatement from Mr. Bell, arguably the only Liberal cabinet minister who can speak knowledgeably about the northwest.

Briefly, the regional jobless rate in July was 11.9 per cent and 12.2 per cent in June, roughly 50 per cent more than a year ago at a time when everyone is pointing at the northwest as a place of economic growth.

Worse yet, the northwest is the only region in B.C. where the jobless rate is in double digits and the statistics indicate the number of people working is dropping, not increasing.

What the review will most likely find, and it’s something that will be of no surprise to Mr. Bell and others, is that there is a gap between the skill level of people who live here now and the kind of jobs now opening up.

This is a recurring theme of the regional economy and, ironically enough, forms the heart of a wide-ranging – but as of yet murky – provincial plan to address the skills gap. If Mr. Bell can take what his staffers provide and push for a quicker closing of the gap, then more power to him.