The Orca: B.C.’s jobs and employment numbers paint a sobering picture

June 9, 2020
Colin Wong


In late March, the Business Council of B.C. (BCBC) modelled two different pandemic-caused recession scenarios for the province – one bad; one real bad.

So when the federal government’s jobs and employment numbers (The Labour Market Survey) were released on Friday, most observers expected still more bad news. Instead, B.C. added 43,300 jobs in May – something of a pleasant, but mild, surprise.

“It’s good news, sure. It’s not super good news, [but] I think most people were expecting another decline,” says Ken Peacock, chief economist at BCBC.

There’s a lot to unpack, but the first thing to keep in mind is the labour market numbers don’t align with provincial benchmarks; the survey captured jobs numbers just before B.C. launched into Phase 2 of re-opening the economy, a fact finance minister Carole James was quick to point out.

“These numbers came before the restart had actually begun,” noted James, who pointed to a “long road ahead of recovery.”

But if it doesn’t reflect the re-opening of the economy, where did those 43,300 jobs come from? Peacock has a theory.

“Businesses would have expected some re-opening, so [for example], if you’re a restaurant you’ve got to get your inventory back up,” says Peacock. “They probably were rehiring some employees just to reopen, in anticipation of that. That to me would be one of the more likely explanations.”

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