Bleak jobs picture outside big cities

By Iglika Ivanova, a senior economist at the BC Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and Seth Klein, the BC Office Director.

By Iglika Ivanova and Seth Klein.

We hear a lot about BC’s strong job performance but if you live outside Metro Vancouver or Victoria you know the job picture is not as rosy as the government says.

In virtually every speech and media appearance, Premier Clark touts the 73,000 new jobs created in BC in 2016. What the Premier doesn’t say is that most of these jobs were created in the province’s southwest corner.

Data from Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey show that BC’s recent job growth comes on the heels of six years of slow recovery since the 2008/2009 recession. Compared to other provinces, we ranked near the bottom of the pack in job creation between 2009 and 2015, ahead only of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

The picture is very bleak outside of BC’s big cities. In 2016, 83 per cent of net new jobs created in the province were in the Metro Vancouver urban area. The broader Lower Mainland/Southwest region, which includes the Fraser Valley, Squamish, Whistler and the Sunshine Coast, is home to 94 per cent of BC’s net job growth.

Not great news if you live in the Interior, the North or the Kootenays.

The only other region that saw net job creation in 2016 was Vancouver Island/Coast, which gained just over 9,000 jobs – two thirds of them in Greater Victoria.

The headline-making job numbers mask the fact that communities in the Interior and the North—Thompson-Okanagan, the Cariboo, Kootenays, North Coast/Nechako and the Northeast—saw net job losses last year. For many of these regions, these job losses came on the heels of hard times because of the recession and a decline in forestry. As a result, in many parts of the province, there are fewer jobs today than there were in 2008. A lot fewer.

Net job losses since 2008 have come close to or exceeded five per cent of employment in each of Vancouver Island/Coast, Kootenay, Cariboo and North Coast/Nechako regions. The Lower Mainland and the Northeast are the only regions with more jobs today than in 2008.

This is exactly the opposite of the much-needed revitalization that the Premier’s Jobs Plan was supposed to accomplish in BC’s Interior and the North. BC needs a new bold jobs plan that would revitalize communities in every corner of the province.

In the coming months leading up to May’s provincial election, we’ll be hearing lots about jobs. But be advised – parse those numbers because the jobs story varies greatly by region. Breaking down the numbers reveals that many in our province are experiencing less economic security, not more.

Iglika Ivanova is a senior economist at the BC office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and Seth Klein is the BC Office Director.