J.D. Irving Ltd. is looking for 6,500 new employees over the next couple of years, including more than 2,700 in New Brunswick.

Mary Keith, a company spokesperson, said the positions will be in various sectors of the company's operations, such as shipbuilding, railroad, forest products, the port and retail.

"These are jobs that are the result of what we're forecasting by way of growth from 2013 to 2015 as well as retirements and natural turnover," she said.

"We're looking for people in the trades, as well as information technology. We're looking for engineers.

"There's a big part of that piece that will come from retail. Kent is underway with a large distribution centre now under construction in Moncton. Here in Saint John, we've got the new Kent Store on the west side that's underway."

New Brunswick's unemployment rate was 10.8 per cent, as of December, according to Statistics Canada.

Meanwhile, 3,600 people left the labour force and 1,600 jobs were lost between November and December, the data shows.

J.D. Irving Ltd. hopes the new positions opening up within the company will not only keep New Brunswickers in the province, but bring back many who have gone out west to find work, said Keith.