B.C.’s labour market was already beginning to tighten before the pandemic started, said economist Ken Peacock with the Business Council of B.C. Construction trades have had difficulties recruiting for years.
Public-sector job growth, notably in health care and education, has had a significant impact on reducing unemployment rates, Peacock said. Private-sector job growth has been less impressive.
Since the pandemic, however, Peacock, vice-president and chief economist for the council, said demographics have begun to catch up with the workforce as people now are beginning to retire faster than new workers are entering.
And among the legions of workers who lost jobs in hard-hit sectors, Peacock said many did take up more secure careers, but some simply haven’t returned to the workforce.
“Maybe half of those people who wouldn’t have lost jobs in a more permanent manner (in tourism and hospitality) rotated into other industries, and maybe roughly half of those people haven’t come back into the labour market.”
Peacock cautioned that wage rates also factor into the equation. People are unwilling to fill some jobs at prevailing wages, “but at a higher wage rate, you might not see the same intensity of shortages.”
Regardless, Peacock said the shrinking pool of available workers to fill vacant jobs is becoming a limit to economic growth itself.