Northwestern New Brunswick deals with labour shortage

Northwestern New Brunswick is dealing with an unusual labour problem - a shortage of workers.

Unemployment in Madawaska County area is about zero, compared to provincial rate of 10 per cent

Northwestern New Brunswick is bucking the provincial labour trend, boasting an unemployment rate that's so low some companies can't find enough workers to fill vacant positions.

The provincial unemployment rate has hovered at about 10 per cent.

But a committee set up to study labour force issues in the Madawaska County area estimates it's close to zero locally.

The end of the so-called chicken war last year has likely played a role.

Groupe Westco was building a new chicken processing plant in Clair to go with its chicken farms and workers at nearby Nadeau Poultry plant in Saint-François had said it threatened their jobs.

Today, both companies are operating, employing more than 2,000 people between them.

Difficult to recruit to area

Thomas Soucy, the chief executive officer of Groupe Westco, says he has to give existing workers extra shifts and bring in some contract workers from Quebec.

"We keep putting ads in the paper. We keep trying to hire people. It's just that it's a secluded area," said Soucy. "Not a lot of people want to move from the city into the, I won't even call it the suburbs, I'll call it the country," he said.

"I would think it's easier for people to move from the country to the city than having people move from the city to the country."

Soucy says he also knows of a local sawmill that wants to add a second shift but can't because it doesn't have enough people.

Gaetane Duval, who is with the Chamber of Commerce in the village of St-François, says young people who leave for university or college generally don't come home.

"They don't come back to our little part of the world," she said.

Duval says people from the rest of the province should consider relocating to upper Madawaska.

"There are plenty of houses for sale," she said.