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Data Points: B.C. inflation rate keeps pace as employers shed thousands of jobs

B.C. employers report significant job declines in April, reversing the hiring surge seen in March
The B.C. job market is showing mixed signals with inflation holding steady.

Consistent for the month of April and the national reading, B.C.’s inflation rate remained at 2.9 per cent in May as shelter and gasoline prices kept the rate elevated. Core inflation—which excludes food and energy prices—also came in at 2.9 per cent, up from 2.6 per cent in April.

Driving B.C. price increases were shelter costs, which increased by 6.4 per cent year over year in May, slowing from the 6.8-per-cent pace registered in April. On a monthly basis, prices for household operations, furnishings and equipment have been trending higher since late 2023. Gasoline prices also decelerated year over year, rising by 6.1 per cent compared to a 8.4-per-cent increase from March to April.

The rising cost of food accelerated in May but aligned with core inflation growth. Food prices increase by 2.9 per cent—up from a 2.6-per-cent pace of growth in April. Sticker shock has moderated although prices remain elevated. More broadly, goods prices rose by 0.7 per cent in May on a year-over-year basis, speeding up from the previous month. Prices on services rose 4.7 per cent, similar to the level of inflation seen in April. Items related to recreation, education and reading posted a price increase of 1.8 per cent while prices for alcoholic beverages, tobacco products and recreational cannabis increased by 2.5 per cent.

Meanwhile, B.C. employers reported a significant decline in positions in April, reversing the surge seen in March. According to the latest Survey of Employers, Payroll and Hours, April saw a decrease of 7,495 positions (down 0.3 per cent) and B.C.’s total job count fell to 2.55 million positions. Goods-producing industries reported a slight 0.1-per-cent decline (440 fewer positions) while services-producing industry payrolls contributed to the overall decline, with 7,003 fewer positions (down 0.3 per cent). The seasonally adjusted job vacancy rate edged up to four per cent in April, with 3,060 more vacancies reported during the month. Total vacancies reached 101,580 positions.

Despite the monthly increase, the job vacancy rate has remained low since the latter half of 2023 and is staying close to the lower end of pre-pandemic levels. At the same time, there is mixed messaging. The Labour Force Survey (LFS) continues to point to positive hiring momentum in April, showing a notable 0.8-per-cent month-over-month increase and a 0.3-per-cent expansion of the labour force. Over longer periods, employment trends across both surveys are generally aligned. However, it’s important to note that while multiple job holders are counted once in the LFS, they appear as multiple entries in payroll records.

Goods-producing industries saw broad and minimal decreases in job counts across sectors except in manufacturing, which experienced a slight increase in payrolls. Despite the industry’s consecutive monthly increases (nearly 400 more positions in April), the latest data points to the lowest level of payrolls in manufacturing since the end of 2020. Broad declines in the number of payrolls were also seen among services-producing industries, except in professional, scientific and technical services, and health care and social assistance, both of which added around 900 more payrolls. A notable decrease was reported in accommodation and food services, with 4,374 fewer positions in April (down 1.9 per cent).

Bryan Yu is chief economist at Central 1.