Premier promises $25M to expand job prospects at home for young people

Following a bleak year for youth employment in New Brunswick, the province has earmarked $25 million in its upcoming budget to increase the number of young workers.

Recent drop in youth unemployment rate isn’t necessarily good news, economist says

Premier Brian Gallant speaks at a luncheon in Moncton to announce $25 million for youth employment programs. (CBC NEWS)

Following a bleak year for youth employment in New Brunswick, the province has earmarked $25 million of the next budget to helping more young people join the workforce.

Premier Brian Gallant announced Monday that the money would go to existing employment programs, new measures to help young people get work experience, and to help reduce their financial pressures. 

"To grow our economy, we must create opportunities for youth employment," Gallant said in a news release.

"For too many years, too many of our loved ones have left our province for work. We need economic growth that helps keep our youth here."

Gallant says New Brunswick needs economic growth that will keep young people in the province. (CBC NEWS)

The money will be directed to five areas:

  • More positions under the Youth Employment Fund for experiential learning.
  • Expanding the student employment experience development, or SEED, program with more summer positions and, in some case, longer terms.
  • A paid internship program within government to help retain more New Brunswick graduates.
  • New measures to help students avoid student loan debt.
  • A campaign to help youth understand what types of jobs will be available in the province and what kind of financial support is offered.

Youthful workforce shrinking

The announcement comes after a year in which the New Brunswick youth workforce shrunk, according to Samuel LeBreton, a Fredericton-based economist.

A 2017 labour market analysis by LeBreton indicates the number of young people aged 15 to 24 with jobs fell by 700, but the proportion of youth with a job has remained the same at 54 per cent.

The youth unemployment rate fell from 15.1 per cent to 13.6 per cent — the lowest mark since 2007, but that isn't good news, he said.

There are fewer youth in the provincial labour market, according to a 2017 labour market analysis. (Lynne Sladky/AP)

"The fact is we have a low unemployment rate for youth, and most people would say it would be good news," LeBreton told CBC News.

"But the thing is a lot of them stopped looking for work. If you look at the labour force, it's declined faster than the population for 15 to 24. So, we have fewer youth in the labour market."

There are 1,900 fewer young people, overall, in the workforce, he reported, because work isn't available and many have stopped looking for it.  

With declining birth rates and more people leaving the province than entering it, some employers face problems finding staff, he said.

LeBreton said government spending to increase youth employment is a positive move.

"If you're trying to make to that connection with potential employees, it's going to attract them and it's probably going to help retain them in the province,"he said.

It's also important that the skills young people acquire match labour market needs, he added.

The Opposition Progressive Conservatives did not immediately respond to the spending announcement.