Greater Moncton’s business community cites labour skill shortages and the need to increase population and immigration as key issues heading into 2018.
A survey of members conducted in December by the Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce shows business owners are increasingly focused on filling labour needs as critical to continued prosperity.
The survey asked GMCC members to identify their biggest challenge to business growth. ‘Difficulty finding employees with the right labour skills’ was the leading response at 25 per cent. A lack of customers came a close second at 23.5 per cent.
A separate question asked: ‘What should be the biggest priority of the provincial government in 2018?’ Lowering the deficit and debt was cited by 25 per cent of respondents, but another 22 per cent answered ‘grow the population and attract immigrants’ while a further 12.5 per cent said ‘build the labour force’.
GMCC Interim CEO John Wishart said these results reflect what the Chamber is hearing in the business community.
"Greater Moncton’s economy has been thriving in recent years,” Wishart noted, “and to a certain extent we are a victim of our own success.
“We are hearing from business people who are expanding their search outside New Brunswick and Canada to fill labour needs, who want to grow but need to fill open positions to make that happen.”
The labour skills shortage is especially acute in the business service centre sector, as well as health-care, IT and financial services industry.
Despite the need to find employees, Greater Moncton business owners continue to be optimistic about the region’s economy heading into the new year.
Respondents were asked to rate economic conditions in the region on a scale of 1-to-10, with 1 meaning ‘very negative’ and 10 being ‘very positive’. The average score was 7.6, up from 7.1 the previous year.
GMCC members were evenly split on what issues Moncton, Dieppe and Riverview councils should focus on in 2018, with low property taxes (27.5 per cent), removing red tape (26 per cent) and better roads and public infrastructure (25 per cent) each gaining support.
Business owners were slightly less optimistic about the provincial outlook for 2018. Asked to rate economic conditions in New Brunswick on the same 1-to-10 scale, the average response was 5.5, up slightly from 5.3 a year ago.
Aside from lowering the deficit and debt, and increasing our population and attracting immigrants, other provincial priorities cited by survey respondents include lower business taxes and fees (16.5 per cent) and investing in health-care and education (11.5 per cent).
Confidence in the local economy has many local business operators predicting their workforce will grow this year, despite the labour skills gap. Over the next six months, 40 per cent of respondents predicted a workforce increase, while only 9.5 per cent see a decrease. A further 37.5 per cent foresee neither an increase nor decrease.
The survey conducted between late November and mid-December elicited responses from 120 GMCC members. It is not a scientific survey with a margin of error but is a snapshot of business community opinion.
The Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce surveys its members twice a year – in the spring and fall – on local and provincial economic trends and important public policy issues.