B.C. added 34,000 jobs in October, after increasing employment in the previous five months as the economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the latest figures from Statistics Canada.
The federal agency’s labour force survey has recorded job growth for B.C. of over six months, bringing overall employment back to near February levels. While forest, mining and large-scale construction have kept employment strong in B.C.’s rural regions, urban areas and businesses hit by travel restrictions still see little or no relief in sight.
The latest results are better than expected for industries that escaped most of the pandemic effects, said Ken Peacock, chief economist for the Business Council of B.C. That includes strong growth in professional, scientific and computer services, as well as industries outside B.C.’s main metropolitan areas of Metro Vancouver, Victoria, Abbotsford and Kelowna.
“When you add up what I would call limited impact sectors, government, public administration and health care, but also manufacturing and forestry and mining, the resource sectors have held up well,” Peacock said in an interview with Black Press Media Nov. 6. “Agriculture was another strong spot in the most recent job market report. Employment in those industries is actually up five per cent since February.”
When the four major urban areas are taken out of the provincial numbers, the rest of the province shows an employment increase of almost three per cent compared to the pre-pandemic conditions of February, where the province’s economy was leading the country and the B.C. government was still looking at surpluses. The census metropolitan areas of Kelowna, Abbotsford and Victoria are still down 2.5 to five per cent, due mainly to their concentration of consumer services like accommodation and food services, Peacock said. The effects are felt most in Metro Vancouver, where 100,000 jobs haven’t come back.
“Basically, we’re in a world when all the job losses now are concentrated in Metro Vancouver,” he said.
Another major driver of employment for rural B.C. comes from its major projects that have carried on through the pandemic, LNG Canada, the Coastal GasLink and Trans Mountain pipelines and the Site C dam in northeast B.C.
Premier John Horgan greeted the latest employment figures with enthusiasm, noting that B.C.’s unemployment rate falling to eight per cent for October puts it well below the national average.
“This is the sixth consecutive month where we have seen significant job creation in B.C., bringing total employment to 97.6 per cent of our pre-pandemic levels in February,” Horgan said in a statement. “However, the numbers, while welcome, do not fully reflect the continuing serious hardship in some sectors of the economy. We know there is much more to do as some businesses are still struggling.”