B.C. labour market remains tight…and vacancies continue to abound

As the new year began, British Columbia’s labour market continued to show strength, based on Statistics Canada’s latest count of job vacancies.

As of Q4 2022, there were approximately 132,000 unfilled job openings in the province, equating to a vacancy rate of 5.2%. The latter is down compared to the 6.8% vacancy rate reported at the mid-point of last year but is high by historical standards. Nationally, the Canadian job vacancy rate stood at 4.8% in Q4 2022, down modestly from the record high of 5.9% in Q2.[1]

The table below provides data on payroll employment[2], job vacancies, and the average “offered wage” rate for vacant positions in B.C. since the last quarter of 2021. Amid plentiful job openings and rising inflation, wages unsurprisingly have moved higher – climbing by 10.6% between Q4 2021 and Q4 2022.

Meanwhile, employment growth in the province has slowed over the last few quarters. The Labour Force Survey for February 2023 estimated 6,700 net job gains, putting the number of jobs in the province 1.3% higher than a year earlier and 4.2% more than in February 2020 – just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The unemployment rate has inched higher but is still hovering near the low level of ~5%.

A key driver of overall job growth in the province since mid-2020 has been an expanding public sector – a trend that’s likely to persist given the sizable spending increases projected in the 2023 B.C. budget.

That said, we expect the labour market to lose steam over the course of 2023 as economic growth decelerates and the impact of higher interest rates and steeper borrowing costs increasingly affects households and businesses across the province. In a slower growth environment, the job vacancy rate should continue to decline from the unusually high levels seen last year.

Job Vacancies, Payroll Employment, And Average Hourly Wages in B.C.

[1] Statistics Canada, CANSIM Table 14-10-0325-01 (March 21, 2023).

[2] Payroll employment does not include the self-employed.