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B.C. adds 6K jobs in February, making up some full-time losses

Province's unemployment rate falls to 5.2%
The construction industry lost 4,000 jobs last month, according to Statistics Canada

February delivered a mixed bag to B.C.’s labour market.

The province added 5,900 jobs to the economy last month, while the unemployment rate fell 0.2 percentage points to 5.2 per cent, according to data released Friday by Statistics Canada.

The soft gains come after the West Coast kicked off the year by losing 2,600 jobs.

Additions were made most notably in construction (+3,600 jobs) and information/culture/recreation (+7,300 jobs), the latter of which is associated with the province’s film and TV sector.

Strikes in Hollywood kept much of B.C.’s film sector quiet in 2023, and the industry began the year by losing 6,600 jobs.

Notable losses hit wholesale and retail trade (-5,600 jobs) and agriculture (-4,500 jobs).

Overall, the province added 15,100 full-time jobs and lost 9,100 part-time jobs.

This comes after B.C. lost 19,600 full-time jobs in January and gained 17,000 part-time gigs.

Meantime, Canada added 41,000 jobs to the labour market last month, while the national unemployment rate grew 0.1 percentage points to 5.8%.

But BMO chief economist Douglas Porter expressed wariness over the national numbers.

“It's staggeringly clear that the results are flattered by ongoing massive population gains, and the labour market is thus actually gradually cooling,” he said in a note. “The steady back-up in the jobless rate, and a pullback in the vacancy rate … suggest that wage growth will eventually cool. On balance, this will not change the Bank of Canada's worldview.”

RBC assistant chief economist Nathan Janzen echoed Porter’s concerns about population growth outpacing job growth.

“And a surge in business bankruptcies and rising household debt service ratios are reinforcing that near-term growth headwinds remain,” he said in an note. “The unemployment rate is still expected to edge higher in the first half of this year.”

TD senior economist James Orlando said the latest jobs numbers are unlikely to sway the Bank of Canada's next rate decision. He does not believe the central bank will make a move to cut rates until June.

"While the job market has held in OK in spite of Canada's meager pace of growth over the last year, the path of inflation is the deciding factor. And to date, the central bank believes it hasn't seen enough evidence to move off the sidelines, although the slight easing in wage pressures may help," he said in a note.

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