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Data points: Latest payroll data points to increased slack in B.C. economy

B.C.'s total job count sat at around 2.54 million positions in November 2023
B.C.'s seasonally adjusted job vacancy rate edged down in November, pointing to increased slack in the economy | Chung Chow

B.C. employers reported a very slight decline in their non-farm payrolls in November. From the latest Survey of Employers, Payroll and Hours (SEPH), payrolls in November were virtually unchanged with a decrease of 716 positions.

That put the total job count in B.C. at about 2.54 million positions. Goods-producing industries reported 0.3-per-cent or 1,171 fewer positions while payrolls in services-producing industries were virtually unchanged. The seasonally adjusted job vacancy rate edged down in November to 4.2 per cent from the previous month (4.3 per cent) pointing to increased slack in the economy. The vacancy rate represents approximately 105,700 vacant positions.

Manufacturing saw the largest decline in positions among goods-producing industries, with 1.1-per-cent or 1,615 fewer positions for a total of 147,335. This marked the lowest number of payrolls in manufacturing since the end of 2020. The increase in payrolls of the mining, quarry and oil and gas extraction sector (629 positions) offset some of the decline in manufacturing. Broad decreases were reported among services-producing industries except educational services (up 2,680 positions or 1.5 per cent), health care and social assistance (up 2,207 positions or 0.7 per cent) and public administration (up 915 positions or 0.6 per cent). Meanwhile, accommodation and food services reported 0.9-per-cent or 2,038 fewer positions.

On the wage front, seasonally adjusted average weekly earnings jumped 4.1 per cent to $1,228 on a year-over-year basis, which is higher than October’s revised 3.9-per-cent increase. Month over month, average weekly earnings were up 0.6 per cent with notable increases seen in finance and insurance (up 4.2 per cent) and in arts, entertainment and recreation (up 3.4 per cent).

Meanwhile, the number of non-resident travellers entering Canada via British Columbia declined in November. On a seasonally adjusted basis, there were 1.7-per-cent fewer visitors in November. The number of same-day excursions declined eight per cent while the number of overnight tourists increased 1.7 per cent. The number of overnight tourists has been on a steady climb but is still only 90 per cent of what was averaged in 2019.

The number of U.S. residents entering Canada via B.C. declined 1.6 per cent in November to 555,132 people. Despite the decline, this is still 5.4 per cent above the monthly average in 2019. The number of residents from other countries declined 2.2 per cent and is around 86 per cent of the monthly average seen in 2019. This reflects factors such as economic weakness in the Chinese economy and slower post-pandemic normalization, not to mention other geopolitical factors.

The decline in U.S. residents entering Canada through B.C. was seen across all modes of transportation but was particularly weak in travellers by air, which was down 6.7 per cent. The number of non-residents from countries other than the U.S. also declined 2.1 per cent in November. This was driven by those who came by land or water (down 22.2 per cent). The number of non-residents from countries other than the U.S. travelling by air increased 5.5 per cent. •

Bryan Yu is chief economist at Central 1.