PEI

Islanders go shopping with savings on gas

P.E.I. saw a big jump in retail sales in the first quarter of 2016, and the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council believes it may be connected to lower prices for gas and heating oil.

Retail sales up but job numbers continue to slump

Retail sales on P.E.I. were up eight per cent in the first quarter. (CBC)

P.E.I. saw a big jump in retail sales in the first quarter of 2016, and the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council believes it may be connected to lower prices for gas and heating oil.

Retail sales were up eight per cent on the Island, part of a trend in increased spending across the Maritimes.

"We believe some of that is due to households spending some of the ongoing savings they've had from lower energy prices over the last year or so," APEC senior policy analyst Fred Bergman told CBC News.

Exports up

Lobster and mussels are driving export growth on P.E.I., says Fred Bergman, senior policy analyst with APEC. (APEC)

While lower prices for energy may have boosted retail on the mainland, it hurt international exports there.

This was not the case on the Island. With little in the way of energy exports to be affected, international exports were up seven per cent, with seafood a big driver.

"There's been some really strong gains in both lobster and mussel exports," said Bergman.

The improvement comes from both a good lobster catch last year, still being sold off in the first quarter, and higher prices.

Job numbers down

Despite that good news it is not getting any easier to find a job on P.E.I.

"On the negative front P.E.I. saw in the first four months of the year almost a three per cent drop in employment," said Bergman.

Job numbers on P.E.I. hit a 2015 peak of 74,300 in October but have been falling ever since. The unemployment rate has been 11 per cent or higher since February.

With files from Angela Walker

now