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Unemployment highest in Abbotsford-Mission

The unemployment rate is highest in Abbotsford-Mission among all four B.C. metropolitan areas, according to Dec. 2013 Statistics Canada data.

An average of 7.8 per cent of the labour force in the Abbotsford-Mission Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) was unemployed during 2013. That's a significant decline from the 8.9 per cent high in 2011, but only marginally lower than 2012's 7.9 average.

Meanwhile, the rates in Vancouver, Victoria, and Kelowna have fallen to below 7.0 per cent.

The Abbotsford-Mission average unemployment rate for 2013 was also higher than all of the development regions, including Vancouver Island, Thompson/Okanagan, and the North Coast/Nechako.

Allan Asaph, executive director of the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce, says that Abbotsford has a high number of seasonal employees, especially in agriculture, which may cause higher annual average unemployment. Last year, unemployment was highest in Abbotsford-Mission from April to July.

Asaph said the area is also attractive to people between jobs because of low living costs. And, Abbotsford-Mission has certain barriers to employment, such as insufficient public transport.

"We were happy to see that council finally did approve the plan for moving forward with the regional district for bus service. I think that's an important factor because we're not well served out here in terms of transportation," said Asaph.

"The economy is slowly recovering, but we're still a significant period away before we start to get back to the levels that we were prior to 2008."

Unemployment in Abbotsford-Mission in 2006 to 2008 was between 4.3 and 4.8 per cent. It jumped to 7.9 in 2009. In the early 2000s, the rate for the area was about on par with the provincial average, and it was only from 2010 onward that Abbotsford had a comparatively high portion of the labour force out of work.

The chamber has officially endorsed the City of Abbotsford's Economic Development Action Plan. Chamber president Mike Welte called that latest plan, presented to city council on Dec. 9, 2013, is "much fuller and more robust action plan than originally conceived." The chamber originally brought the idea for the plan to city hall over three years ago.

Key initiatives in the new plan that Asaph believes would bring more jobs to the area include supporting the growing agriculture industry through innovative land use policies; ensuring that higher education programs are geared toward developing a creative and entrepreneurial workforce that can in turn create jobs; and nurturing an atmosphere that attracts businesses to Abbotsford-Mission.

"Abbotsford has one of the highest levels of residents working in the community. What that tells us, is we need to create more jobs in Abbotsford," he said.

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