SOURCE: Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia

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May 31, 2017 10:00 ET

Northwest B.C.'s fortunes reversed in 2016

SMITHERS, BC--(Marketwired - May 31, 2017) - According to the CPABC Regional Check-Up, an annual economic report by the Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia, Northwest B.C., which consists of the North Coast and Nechako development regions, had a rough year in 2016 after strong economic growth in 2015.

"Construction activity in our region declined, as major project development slowed. The economic momentum from proposed LNG projects also came to a standstill due to market uncertainty and declining fuel prices," said Jeanne MacNeil, CPA, CA, partner with Edmison Mehr in Smithers. "Furthermore, low prices for some of our metals led to the shutting down of several mining operations in the region, as well as reduced mine development and mineral exploration activity."

As a result of reduced economic activity, the number of jobs in Northwest B.C. declined by 0.2 per cent to 42,100 in 2016. The region's unemployment rate was 7.7 per cent, above the provincial average of 6.0 per cent. There was an overall decline in full-time jobs, which meant more individuals struggled to make ends meet. This was evidenced by an increase in reported consumer insolvencies and business bankruptcies.

"It was not all bad news for our region last year. The recently opened Red Chris Mine achieved its first full year of production. The newly modernized Kitimat aluminum smelter also ramped up to full production, which coincided with a recovery in aluminum prices and a small silver mine near the Yukon border began operations late in the year," said MacNeil. "Looking ahead, continued operations at these mines and the opening of the Brucejack Gold Mine, which powered up on March 31st, should bring economic activity to the region. The Brucejack Gold Mine is a few months ahead of schedule and once this mine is in operation, it should employ roughly 500 workers over its estimated mine life of 18 years."

Besides a bright spot in the mining sector, the region's forestry sector also remained a solid contributor to the economy as lumber production increased and shipments of wood pellets and logs through the Port of Prince Rupert grew. However, the new U.S. tariff on Canadian softwood lumber exporters will likely impact the forestry sector and affect exports through the Port. With major resource projects stalled, construction activity will likely slowdown in the region. In fact, the region's labour market lost another 1,400 jobs over the first quarter of 2017. With continued uncertainty over commodity prices and trade negotiations, it is likely that Northwest B.C. may be in for a period of slower economic growth in the near-term.

About CPABC Regional Check-Up - Northwest B.C.:

The Nechako Development Region comprises the Bulkley-Nechako and Stikine Regional Districts. The North Coast Development Region comprises the Skeena-Queen Charlotte and Kitimat-Stikine Regional Districts. Together, these two development regions make up approximately one-third of B.C.'s geographical area and 2.1 per cent of B.C.'s population.

The CPABC Regional Check-Up reports look at British Columbia's eight Development Regions as a place to work, invest, and live. The reports are available online at: www.bccheckup.com.

About CPA British Columbia

The Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia (CPABC) is the training, governing, and regulatory body for almost 35,000 CPA members and 5,000 CPA students. CPABC carries out its primary mission to protect the public by enforcing the highest professional and ethical standards and contributing to the advancement of public policy. CPAs are recognized internationally for bringing superior financial expertise, strategic thinking, business insight, and leadership to organizations.

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