Unemployment in B.C.'s northeast rose for the fourth consecutive month in December, to a 20-month high of 7.6 per cent.
It's the highest rate the region has seen since May 2014, when it also recorded a 7.6 per cent unemployment rate. Province-wide, the rate sits at six per cent, while national unemployment is 7.1 per cent.
Unemployment has been rising steadily in the Peace and Fort Nelson areas with the downturn in oil and gas prices. Year to year, employment in the B.C. forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying and oil and gas sectors fell 3.4 per cent, from 50,000 employees to 48,300 (B.C. does not report oil and gas employment as its own category).
In the five-month period from Oct. 2014 to Feb. 2015, northeast unemployment was too low to report. The government does not reveal the rate when fewer than 1,500 people are unemployed, for confidentiality reasons.
The rate climbed to 4.2 per cent in March, increasing for five months to 6.4 per cent, before dropping to 5.5 in both August and September. Unemployment has since grown steadily.
The number is a seasonally unadjusted three-month moving average. Rates tend to spike due to the end of seasonal employment in the natural resources sector. However, winter typically sees the highest levels of activity in the oil and gas fields.
The northeast recorded the highest rate in B.C. in December, ahead of Abbotsford-Mission, which had a 7.5 per cent rate of unemployment. With 5.4 per cent, Vancouver had the lowest percentage of unemployed people in B.C.
Overall, B.C.'s unemployment rate stayed flat at 6 per cent, despite losing 7,900 jobs from the month before. Year over year, B.C. added 51,600 jobs, mostly part time positions.
—with files from Business in Vancouver