Where have the good jobs gone?

The provincial NDP says the 5,200 jobs lost between Dec. 2014 and Dec. 2015 are a direct result of Stephen McNeil’s harmful cuts to the Nova Scotia economy.

In the latest cuts, the Nova Scotia government intends to cut 100 Health Department jobs, citing a refocusing and restructuring plan to take effect in April.

“You know, it’s very concerning to see the substantial and dramatic loss of employment in the province, and that’s reflected in the revenue of the province,” says Maureen MacDonald, former finance minister and interim leader of the provincial NDP.

When the current finance minister Randy Delorey gave a budgetary update last month, MacDonald says, it was reported that revenue was significantly down from personal income tax and that is attributed to fewer people working.

While most sectors in the province’s economy are struggling, the lobster fishery has increased exports, MacDonald says.

MacDonald is optimistic about the shipyard program, which they say will result in steady, reliable employment for a number of years.

The federal government and Irving Shipbuilding signed an agreement to have six Arctic offshore patrol shops built in Halifax’s shipyard – the deal ensures the yard five ships with an anticipated ceiling of $2.3 billion.

There remains one group of Nova Scotians finding it particularly difficult to get free of debt and find work – young professionals. Many are leaving the region en masse to find opportunities elsewhere.

“Young people here are confronting the increasing precariousness of work—most of the new jobs ‘created’ are part-time, temporary, and come with few benefits and little assurance of stability,” says Karen Foster, assistant professor of sociology and Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Rural Futures for Atlantic Canada.

“It’s really hard to plan for a family, buy a house, and put down roots if you can’t count on a long-term job,” she added in an email.

As per the 2013 Halifax Index, the province’s workers aged 45 and older made up about 97 per cent of the work force between 2006 and 2012.

The joblessness rate for youth ages 15 to 24, meanwhile, hit 13 per cent in 2007 and rose to 18.7 per cent since the economic recession in 2008.

“Much of the job growth in our cities tends to get gobbled up by people over age 45,” says Foster.

“Young people have a hard time breaking into the labour market here (and elsewhere) because they have to compete increasingly with older workers who have been laid off from other jobs or are looking to “dabble” in something after retirement.”

Toronto-based labour lawyer Andrew Langille says there is a “need to adopt public policy solutions that were friendly to young people and to immigrants as well, as a means to stem the precipitous decline of Nova Scotia.” He has visited Halifax on several occasions on invitation by the advocacy group, Students Nova Scotia.

He says there’s not enough being done to get people into jobs. “There needs to be a higher focus on skills and jobs training – young people need hands-on experience at multiple entry points,” says Langille.

MacDonald says that Nova Scotia’s birthrate is dropping and “has been for a long time. So, the proportion of young people in our province, as a proportion of the population has been shrinking.”

This is all happening on a macro scale, but it’s a bigger problem in Atlantic Canada, she says.

Nova Scotia has the opportunity to recruit young people from all over via its post-secondary education institutions, yet the Liberal McNeil government lifting the tuition cap threatens this revenue, future job market and student retention.

“I don’t see it getting better anytime soon, in the short term, that’s for sure,” MacDonald says.