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B.C. adds 6,700 jobs in February as growth slows

Unemployment rate jumps to 5.1 per cent
Health-care workers at Vancouver General Hospital. The health-care industry added 8,100 jobs last month, according to Statistics Canada | Rob Kruyt, BIV

Growth in B.C.’s labour force took a bit of a breather last month.

The province added 6,700 jobs in February – down from the addition of 8,000 jobs in January and the addition of 17,000 jobs the month before that.

Statistics Canada data released on Friday (March 10) also reveals the unemployment rate jumped 0.7 percentage points between January and February. With more people entering the labour force, the rate now sits at 5.1 per cent.

The biggest losses were felt in wholesale/retail (-7,200 jobs), while the biggest gains came in healthcare (+8,100 jobs).

Overall, the country added 22,000 jobs and the national unemployment rate remained static at five per cent.

The February jobs data comes after the Bank of Canada on Wednesday hit the pause button on rate hikes for the first time in a year. 

“Arriving on the heels of the January jobs jamboree, this result is far too strong for the BoC's comfort. There simply is no sign that the labour market is succumbing whatsoever to the rapid-fire tightening of the past year,” BMO chief economist Douglas Porter said in a note, referring to the national numbers. 

“The economy is likely just one wrong turn on the inflation front away from the Bank flipping back into rate-hiking mode.”

Andrew Grantham, senior economist at CIBC Capital Markets, said the underlying trend of job growth remains stronger than what would normally be justified by the pace of GDP. 

“Because of that, we still expect to see some softer employment figures and a gradual rise in the unemployment rate throughout the balance of this year, particularly as economic activity slows further with the lagged impact of past interest rate hikes,” he said in a note.

“However, for now the still historically low unemployment rate and strong wage growth will keep the Bank of Canada leaning towards future rate hikes, although we still don't think the data will be strong enough for policymakers to actually move again.”