Kootenay unemployment rate drops, but so does labour pool

The bright prospect of a dropping unemployment rate in the region is being shaded by the decrease in the labour pool across the Kootenays, according to a provincial report on employment trends.

BC Check-Up: Work, an annual report by the Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia (CPABC), charted employment trends across the province, with the West and East Kootenay unemployment rate falling to 6.1 per cent (September 2022), a .4 per cent drop from one year ago.

However, the same report noted the labour participation rate — the percentage of working-aged people looking for work or are employed — fell by 1.5 per cent (to 59.7 per cent) in that same time frame.

That means the number of unemployed people fell by 7.3 per cent since last year, a distressing figure, said Mike Calder, CPA, CA and a partner at BDO Canada.

“While our region’s unemployment rate declined over the past year, that headline number overlooks some troubling trends,” he said. “Namely, the decline was due to less residents in our labour pool, and the region actually saw employment decline slightly over the past year.”

As well, total employment in the region dropped by .5 per cent compared to last year. However, it has grown by 2.7 per cent in the last three years overall, versus a population growth of 3.1 per cent.

“Compared to the rest of the province, the Kootenays did not see as severe a drop in employment due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Calder stated.

Employment performance has varied widely by sector and industry and many employers have struggled to fill open positions, he pointed out.

By the sector

The goods sector workforce had an employment of 20,300 in September 2022, which was a large drop of 21.3 per cent compared to last year.

That decline was attributed to the construction industry workforce which fell to 5,400 workers, a 43.8 per cent decline over the past year.

Overall, goods sector employment was down 7.7 per cent from September 2019.

On the service sector end employment has increased in the last year to 58,900, a jump of 9.7 per cent. Hard hit service industries during the pandemic — hospitality and retail/wholesale trade —saw significant job growth this year, adding 1,200 and 1,100 jobs, respectively.

In addition, the job vacancy rate reached a record high of 8.2 per cent this year, representing about 6,100 jobs that employers were unable to fill.

“The Kootenays’ labour market continues to face significant challenges, including high job vacancies and an uneven recovery,” said Calder.

Source: BC Check-Up: Work

Timothy Schafer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Nelson Daily