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Provincial unemployment drops, but economic struggles on the horizon

B.C.’s unemployment dropped to 5.2 per cent in August: StatsCan
The provincial unemployment rate dropped in August, but economic headwinds are on the horizon. (Black Press Media file photo)

British Columbia’s unemployment dropped by 0.2 per cent to 5.2 per cent in August according to new figures from Statistics Canada.

Employment rose by 12,000 jobs in B.C., but a closer look reveals that was sparked by gains in the number of part-time jobs. While the province gained 36,000 part-time jobs, it lost 24,000 full-time jobs.

The picture also looks different across industries. The transportation and warehousing sector led with about 11,000 new jobs, followed by educational services with 10,200 jobs in the run-up to the start of the new school year. But some other key sectors of the economy shed jobs.

The construction sector shed far fewer jobs in August than in July. But the sector broadly known as finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing lost 7,700 jobs, in yet another sign housing-related industries are struggling in the wake of rising interest rates and inflation. The accommodation and food services (-2,600 jobs), information, culture and recreation (-4,600 jobs) and health care and social assistance (-5,700 jobs) sectors all saw employment losses.

Jobs Minister Brenda Bailey said in a statement that B.C. has the second-lowest unemployment rate in the country, below the national average of 5.5 per cent.

“In August, jobs in education increased, which is good news for families with children in public schools and child care,” she said in highlighting sectors that gained jobs. “B.C. saw a boost in transportation and warehousing jobs, too, a positive sign for people and businesses following the July port strikes.”

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But Bailey also acknowledged global economic headwinds.

“We understand the stress and economic challenges faced by many people, communities and businesses, as B.C. experiences a record wildfire season, slower global economic growth and high interest rates,” she said. “The Bank of Canada held its interest rate at (five) per cent as there is growing evidence that higher interest rates are weighing on economic activity.”

She added that B.C. is benefiting from a diverse economy.

“Employment has continued to grow by 1.5% this year and the Future Ready Action Plan is helping people get the skills they need for in-demand jobs,” she said. “Ambitious infrastructure and housing plans are boosting construction throughout the province, and B.C.’s housing starts are up 17 per cent year to date to July compared to 2022, the highest in Canada.”

Other measures, however, point to less housing entering the market.

The new figures and accompanying analysis from Statistics Canada also point to two developments increasingly shaping the labour market. First, fewer workers are changing jobs.

“A lower job-changing rate may indicate that workers are settling into jobs, or that the labour market has become less favourable to employees seeking new opportunities,” it reads. This can also be read as evidence that the economy is or has already entered a sluggish period.

Second, more people who hold multiple jobs do it for the money. In August, over one-third (34.9 per cent) of surveyed multiple job-holders said they need the money to pay for essential need. Just before the pandemic, the rate was 20.6 per cent. This again suggests that full-time wages are too low in some sectors and that inflation is cutting into purchasing power.

Overall, about one million people — or 5.4 per cent — held multiple jobs in Canada, virtually unchanged from a year earlier.


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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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