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Data points: B.C. consumers restrict unnecessary spending and non-farm payrolls decline

B.C.'s job vacancy rate in October represented approximately 108,620 empty positions
Consumers restricted unnecessary retail spending last fall, according to Statistics Canada data | Rob Kruyt

Retail spending in Canada gained traction in October following September’s increase.

Seasonally adjusted retail sales rose 0.7 per cent to $66.9 billion, trailing the consensus forecast for a 0.8-per-cent gain, and led by higher sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers.

Price-adjusted retail sales were up 1.4 per cent during the month. Early estimates provided by Statistics Canada for November suggest retail sales were unchanged.  

In B.C., spending rose 0.5 per cent to reach $9.1 billion during the month. Year-to-date sales were also up 0.7 per cent. The data is unadjusted for seasonality at the store level, but year-over-year figures indicate a boost, primarily from a 7.6-per-cent increase in sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers, although not as much as the 11.4-per-cent gain in September.

Food and beverage retailers’ sales also pulled back during the month, falling 4.9 per cent. Sales of clothing and related items rose 6.9 per cent in October, while general merchandise retailers’ sales posted a 6.3-per-cent increase. Meanwhile, sales of building materials, garden equipment and supplies dealers declined 5.4 per cent, likely in response to the weakening housing market in the province. Additionally, sales at gasoline stations and fuel vendors declined 6.2 per cent. Sporting goods, hobby, musical instrument, book and miscellaneous retailers’ sales followed suit with a 14.5-per-cent decline as consumers restricted unnecessary spending.

Adjusted for seasonal factors, Vancouver metro area retail sales increased 0.7 per cent on a monthly basis. Year-to-date sales also show an increase of 0.5 per cent in the area.

Total B.C. employment declines in October

B.C. employers reported a decline in their non-farm payrolls in October. From the latest Survey of Employers, Payroll and Hours, October saw a seasonally adjusted decrease of 0.3 per cent or 8,600 positions, bringing down the total job count in B.C. to 2.54 million positions. Goods-producing industries reported one per cent or 3,900 fewer positions, while services-producing industries reported 0.1 per cent or 2,700 fewer positions.

The seasonally adjusted job vacancy rate increased by 4.3 per cent, up four per cent from the previous month. The vacancy rate represents approximately 108,620 vacant positions.

The largest decline in positions reported in goods-producing industries was in construction, which reported 1.8 per cent or 3,500 fewer positions at 187,000. This is the lowest number since the start of the year. Also reporting fewer positions was manufacturing, which reported a reduction of 0.5 per cent or 8,000 positions. Offsetting these declines was a 2.1-per-cent increase – equivalent to 500 positions – reported in mining, quarry, and oil and gas extraction.

Within services-producing industries, 1,900 or one per cent fewer positions were reported in educational services, 0.8 per cent or 1,500 fewer positions were reported in professional, scientific, and technical services, and 0.4 per cent or 1,500 fewer positions were reported in the trade industry. Health care and social assistance, meanwhile, reported 0.6 per cent or 1,900 more positions.

On the wage front, seasonally adjusted average weekly earnings jumped 4.8 per cent to $1,230.54 on a year-over-year basis, which is lower than last month’s revised 5.7-per-cent increase. Month-over-month, average weekly earnings were down 0.6 per cent, with goods-producing industries reporting a 2.4-per-cent increase and services-producing industries reporting a 1.3-per-cent decrease.

Bryan Yu is chief economist at Central 1.