B.C. Employment by Industry - The Long View

July 24, 2018
David Williams

How has the labour market in British Columbia changed over the decades? A long-term perspective can help to answer this question -- and allow us to see through the vicissitudes of the business cycle. A previous blog looked at long-term employment growth by occupation. This blog examines which industries have contributed the most and the least to B.C. employment growth over time.

Over the past four decades, B.C. employment growth has been overwhelmingly concentrated in services-producing industries (Figure 1). Out of 1.4 million jobs created since 1976, 1.2 million were in the services sector, compared to just 168,000 in the goods sector. In the most recent decade, the services sector played an even larger role, contributing 250,000 new jobs, or 96% of all new jobs, compared to a paltry 11,000 new jobs in goods industries. In other words, over 2007-2017, there were about 22 new jobs in the services sector for every new job created in the goods sector.

Figure 1: Nine out of ten New B.C. Jobs are in Services-Producing Industries
Change in employed persons, by industry classification, thousands

Source: CANSIM 282-0008.

Let’s now take a closer look at employment growth by industry (Figure 2). The top industry contributors to B.C. employment growth were health care and social assistance, wholesale and retail trade, professional, scientific and technical services, and accommodation and food services. The only goods-producing sector that recorded a major employment gain was construction. Other than in the construction sector, goods-producing industries have seen net employment losses over the past decade.

Figure 2: B.C. Job Growth is Overwhelmingly in Services Industries and Construction
Change in employed persons, by industry, thousands

Source: CANSIM 282-0008.

Overall, long-term trends in B.C. employment growth by industry (this blog) and by occupation (previous blog) appear consistent with the predicted effects of automation and skill- and routine-biased technological change. Demographic change and trade liberalization may also have contributed to these structural shifts in the labour market. There have been negligible employment gains in goods-producing industries, other than construction. Most new jobs are in services-producing industries and occupations.

For further reading, see our Human Capital Law and Policy publication for June 2018.

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