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B.C. adds 10k jobs in October amid wild swings in some sectors

Tech sector employment sees deep slide as retail jobs explode
Construction workers in Vancouver | Chung Chow, BIV

B.C. job growth remained steady in September despite wild swings in some sectors.

Statistics Canada reported Friday the province’s economy expanded by 10,400 jobs last month, while the unemployment rate fell by 0.3 percentage points to 5.6% compared with September.

Only Manitoba (5.3%) has a lower unemployment rate among the provinces.

Employment in wholesale and retail trade grew with the addition of 20,000 jobs ahead of the holiday shopping season, as did healthcare with 7,200 jobs. StatsCan’s survey was conducted October 10-16, before thousands of B.C. health-care workers were placed on unpaid leave beginning October 26 following a vaccination mandate from the province.

But the professional, scientific and technical services sector — the StatsCan classification under which the tech industry falls — lost a whopping 12,800 jobs despite overwhelming demand for those high-paying jobs.

And even as the economy opened further with the additional loosening of COVID-19 restrictions last month, the hospitality sector (accommodation and food services) shed 8,000 jobs.

BMO chief economists Douglas Porter attributed national erosion (-27,000 jobs) of that sector to “extreme challenges finding workers.”

Canada overall added 31,000 jobs, while the national unemployment rate fell 0.2 percentage points to 6.7% — numbers Porter described in a note as “ho-hum.”

“Labour markets have still not fully recovered from the shock of 2020, but they are getting closer and reports of labour shortages are not likely to dissipate any time soon,” RBC senior economist Nathan Janzen said in a note.

Meanwhile, B.C. also saw gains in agriculture (+2,300 jobs), construction (2,000 jobs) and information, culture and recreation (+3,400 jobs), the latter of which is associated with the film and TV sector.

Additional losses hit business, building and other support services (-5,800 jobs) and natural resources (-3,600 jobs).

Looking ahead, TD senior economist Sri Thanabalasingam said next month’s jobs numbers will likely be impacted by the October 23 expiry of federal wage and rent subsidies for businesses.

“We will be watching the November employment report closely for evidence of how this may have impacted labor force engagement,” he said in a note.

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