B.C. adds 33,500 jobs in October to lead nation

Jobless rate drops to 8 per cent, but biggest employment gains seen in the public sector and part-time work

Business in Vancouver
November 6, 2020

B.C. accounted for more than a third of new hires in Canada. |BIV
— B.C. accounted for more than a third of new hires in Canada. |BIV

British Columbia led all provinces in job gains in October, adding 33,500 positions as the West Coast economy showed signs of a broader economic recovery.

Data released November 6 from Statistics Canada reveal bumps led by healthcare and social assistance (+8,400 jobs), manufacturing (+5,900 jobs), information, culture and recreation (+4,200 jobs) and natural resources (+3,900 jobs).

The losses that did occur in some sectors were muted in comparison.

Business, building and other support services saw 1,700 jobs lost, transportation and warehousing lost 1,400 jobs and the construction industry lost 900 jobs.

Ken Peacock, chief economist at the Business Council of B.C. [BCBC], said the big surprise from the latest numbers was from job growth in industries that weren’t hard hit by the pandemic.

“The Business Council underestimated the kind of dynamism of expansion,” he told Business in Vancouver.

But he added some pockets of weakness remain, most notably in gains made in part-time jobs compared with full-time positions.

The vast majority of the province’s gains last month — 25,700 jobs — were part-time compared with the addition of 7,800 full-time jobs.

Peacock suspects many of the gains in healthcare came from the hiring of part-time contact tracers.

The gains helped bring the province’s unemployment rate down 0.4 percentage points to 8 per cent

Canada as a whole added 84,000 jobs in October, while the national unemployment rate fell 0.1 percentage points to 8.9 per cent.

But BMO chief economist Douglas Porter is cautioning that the pace of gains is set to taper off.

“Job gains are going to be increasingly tough to come by, especially in the face of renewed restrictions in many provinces. And there is still a lot of work to get employment back to pre-pandemic levels, as evidenced by the 8.9 per cent jobless rate (vs. 5.6 per cent in February),” he said in a note to investors.

“Overall, no big surprise here and no fundamental change to the outlook. If anything, it gives us some quiet confidence that the economy can deal with some renewed restrictions.”

B.C.’s own gains have been seesawing since the summer months, with the province adding 54,800 jobs in September — more than triple the 15,300 jobs added in August.

“The big question remains how much of the already slowing pace of job growth can be sustained given the resurgence in virus cases,” RBC Economics senior economist Nathan Janzen said in a note.

While B.C. added 2,100 jobs last month in accommodation and food services, it's unlikely that sector would continuing making gains if new restrictions were to be imposed amid spiking COVID-19 case numbers.

Peacock of the BCBC said he hopes the impact of any potential restrictions will be limited “but it's going to unfortunately continue to hurt those hard-hit sectors, particularly food services.”

He added he would be surprised if any new restrictions meant the closure of non-essential retail outlets, similar to the lockdowns early on in the pandemic.


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