5 Points of Interest about BC’s Labour Market

November 9, 2016
Ken Peacock

The BC job market is very healthy and employment is growing at a robust pace. Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey shows that between September and October of this year BC gained another ~15,000 jobs, further underscoring the fact that BC stands out in the federation on most key labour market metrics. Within the province, however, labour market conditions are more mixed. Below are five points outlining the comparative health of the provincial labour market as well the main area of weakness.

  • Job growth is strongest in BC. The average employment level in the province over the first ten months of the year is up 3.3% compared to the same period in 2015. This is the strongest increase of any province, by a significant margin. The comparable growth figure in Ontario is 1.0% and Quebec has seen employment rise by 0.7%. All other provinces have recorded job losses this year.
  • BC’s unemployment rate is the lowest in the country. Although the unemployment rate moved up from 5.7% in September to 6.2% in October (because more people entered the job market looking for work), BC still has the lowest jobless rate of any province. Of interest, this is the first time BC’s unemployment rate has been consistently lower than the jobless rate in Alberta since the inception of Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey in 1976. There was a period in the early/mid 1990s when BC’s unemployment rate sporadically dipped below Alberta’s, but the pattern was not sustained. The unemployment rate in BC has been below Alberta’s for more than a year and currently stands more than two full percentage points lower.
  • Job growth is strongest in the private sector in BC. Strong gains in the number of employees working in the private sector is further evidence of a healthy labour market. Looking at the three different employment classes used by Statistics Canada shows the number of employees in the private sector is up 4.2% in BC. The number of employees working in the broad public sector (public administration as well as health care and education) is up a more modest 1.5%. Self-employment is up 2.1%. The picture in Alberta is very different with steep job losses in the private sector.
  • Part-time employment growth has been stronger, but this does not diminish the health of the job market. In BC part-time employment is up 7.0% so far this year while full-time employment has grown 2.1%. The part-time gain is unusually strong and is helping lift the overall increase in employment. But part-time employment accounts for just over 20% of all jobs in the province and the gain in full-time jobs is strong in its own right.
  • Employment growth is concentrated in the Southwest part of the province. The one weak spot for the BC labour market is the fact that all job growth has been in the lower mainland region and to a lesser extent the southern part of Vancouver Island. So far in 2016 all other labour market regions have recorded job losses.

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