04/11/2012 11:54 EDT | Updated 06/11/2012 05:12 EDT

New Brunswick civil service lost more than 600 jobs last year, report says

FREDERICTON - The number of public servants in New Brunswick dropped by 624 last year — a 1.3 per cent reduction of the civil service from the year before, a report released Wednesday says.

Finance Minister Blaine Higgs tabled the report in the provincial legislature, saying government departments have been closely examining positions when they become vacant as part of efforts to cut spending.

Last month in the provincial budget, Higgs announced that about 4,500 people were expected to leave the public service through attrition over the next three years.

But Finance Department officials later said that up to two-thirds of those positions could be replaced because they are considered essential.

Higgs said Wednesday that if the government eliminates 500 jobs a year, it will save about $86 million by 2014-15. But he said the number of job cuts wasn't a goal the government is aiming to meet.

"We aren't going to pick a number or throw a dart at a wall and say that's what we'll shoot for," he said in an interview. "We will evaluate every position as anyone leaves."