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B.C. adds 500 jobs in July as growth slows in labour market

Unemployment rate ticks slightly upward compared with a month earlier
B.C.'s unemployment rate hike 4.7 per cent last month compared with 4.9 per cent on a national basis | Pedro Arquero/Moment/Getty Images

Job growth slowed in B.C. last month as the province added 500 positions to the economy — down significantly from a month earlier when the West Coast labour market added 6,100 jobs.

The Canadian economy also appears to be coming back down to Earth amid economic uncertainty, as the country lost 31,600 jobs last month, according to data released Friday by Statistics Canada.

B.C.’s unemployment rate ticked upward by 0.1 percentage point to 4.7 per cent, while the national rate was unchanged at a historic low of 4.9 per cent as the country lost 30,600 jobs at the same time many departed the labour market.

"What's not entirely clear yet is whether the pullback in jobs is due to a lack of demand for workers — a slower economy — or a lack of supply of workers," BMO chief economist Douglas Porter said in a note, referring to the national numbers.

“The latter view is supported by a drop in the participation rate, which dipped a further two ticks to 64.7 per cent after dropping four ticks in June. Even the 15-64 group saw a big three-tick pullback in participation to 79.1 per cent, after reaching a record high 79.7 per cent as recently as March … Canada's job market is clearly losing momentum in a hurry, likely due to both a marked cooling in the broader economy but also because a lack of available workers.”

The biggest gains in B.C.'s labour market came in the information, culture and recreation bucket (+12,200 jobs); the construction sector (+4,600 jobs); and finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing (+3,300 jobs).

The biggest losses hit health care (-9,300 jobs) and manufacturing (-8,900 jobs).

But even as the West Coast faces ultra-low unemployment rates, the province is forecasting there will be one million job openings over the next decade and a potential shortage of 86,000 workers in the labour market.

“We're going to have to welcome people to British Columbia from other parts of the country,” B.C. Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon told BIV following the release of the StatsCan data.

He noted the province recently asked the federal government to boost B.C.’s allotment of foreign skilled workers brought into Canada via the Provincial Nominee Program, from 7,000 this year to 25,000 by 2025.

“We know where our labor market needs are. We just need to have the tools to be able to welcome people here to fill these important jobs.”

When asked if decades-high inflation might dissuade some from moving to B.C., where the cost of living is already particularly high in the southwest of the province, Kahlon said it’s a problem jurisdictions are facing all over the world.

“That's two in a row in terms of weak headline jobs prints and employment has now averaged an 11K decline over the past three months. This is consistent with our view that economic growth will soften in the second half of the year," TD economist Rishi Sondhi said in a note, referring to the national numbers.

“Taking some sting away from the report is the fact that full-time employment only modestly retraced May's huge gain in June and July, and is still-up at healthy 4.7 per cent year-on-year. In addition, wage growth continues to be robust (which will provide some offset to household incomes from inflation).”

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