British Columbia may be leading the country in employment but the good news doesn't extend very far outside the province's major cities, according to new research from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

"Our research shows that when you dig deeper... the picture is much less rosy," said Iglika Ivanova, a researcher at the centre's Vancouver office.

"The overall B.C. numbers are masking overall regional disparities in our province that people need to know about."

Jobs in B.C.

Most regions of British Columbia lost jobs in 2016 says the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. (Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives)

Using Labour Force Statistics Data from BC Stats, Ivanova charted job growth in seven B.C. regions since 2008.

She found only two — the Lower Mainland and Northeast — had a net gain in jobs over since then, and only the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island/Coastal regions had job growth in 2016.

"Most regions in B.C. actually have fewer jobs today than they did in 2008 when the recession hit," she said.

B.C. Liberals talk job creation

The issue of job creation is likely to come up during the provincial election this year.

In 2011, Christy Clark launched the B.C. Jobs Plan with the goal of being number one in the country for job creation by 2015.

It may have been a year later than planned but in August 2016, Jobs Minister Shirley Bond pointed out B.C. was indeed leading the country in job creation.

Site C Job Fair in Prince George

In February 2016, 1,000 people lined up at a Site C job fair in Prince George for a chance to drop off their resume and make a short pitch to contractors building the $1.75 billion dam. (Betsy Trumpener/CBC News)

At the time, Bond credited the growth of clean tech, life sciences, digital media and advanced manufacturing as the reasons behind the growth.

Ivanova said that analysis holds true when looking at which regions are hurting and which are growing when it comes to job creation.

Areas traditionally dependent on resources are on the decline while jobs in new industries tend to be concentrated in the Vancouver and Victoria regions, she explained. 

"An economic strategy based entirely on exporting resources is not sustainable," said Bond, adding the government is committed to creating jobs in all parts of the province.

"We are working to diversify the economy and say yes to major projects and investments to support communities," she said.

"The creation of the rural advisory council demonstrates our commitment to working with rural and northern communities to ensure that job creation and economic benefits are felt all across British Columbia."

Diversifying northern economies

Communities in other parts of the province are taking their own steps to diversify their economies.

In Fort Nelson, city council is looking for ways to kick-start its forest industry in the wake of oil and gas jobs disappearing, with a focus on sustainable development rather than raw-log exports.

In Prince George, the Innovation Central Society believes there is an opportunity to extend the growth of the tech industry to northern British Columbia.

Hubspace

Prince George's Innovation Central Society is headquartered in the Hubspace, a downtown location aimed at incubating and developing northern B.C.'s tech industry. (The Hubspace/Facebook)

"I think the tech industry in the north is at the very beginning of flourishment, if you like," said ICS president Will Cadell, who also runs an online mapping company.

Cadell said he believes the key is helping people living in the north market their technological innovations, while also highlighting the benefits of living outside of major cities to those already in the industry.

"I would argue the opportunity... is to sell our values," he said, "And sell this idea that you don't have to have a two-hour commute, you can own a house and you can go skiing in the evening."

With files from George Baker


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To hear an interview with Ivanova click on the audio labeled 'B.C. losing jobs everywhere except Vancouver, Victoria, says report.'