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B.C. leads country in employment gains, adding 33,500 jobs in October

What happened: B.C. economy adds 33,500 jobs in October Why it matters: Gains come from a range of sectors, rather than being concentrated in a select few B.C.
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What happened: B.C. economy adds 33,500 jobs in October

Why it matters: Gains come from a range of sectors, rather than being concentrated in a select few

B.C. led the nation in job gains last month, adding 33,500 positions in October as the West Coast economy showed signs of a broader economic recovery.

Data released Friday (November 6) from Statistics Canada reveal bumps led by healthcare and social assistance (+8,400 jobs), manufacturing (+5,900 jobs), information, culture and recreation (+4,200 jobs) and natural resources (+3,900 jobs).

The losses that did occur in some sectors were muted in comparison.

Business, building and other support services saw 1,700 jobs lost, transportation and warehousing lost 1,400 jobs and the construction industry lost 900 jobs.

Ken Peacock, chief economist at the Business Council of B.C. [BCBC], said the big surprise from the latest numbers was from job growth in industries that weren’t hard hit by the pandemic.

“The Business Council underestimated the kind of dynamism of expansion,” he told BIV.

But he added some pockets of weakness remain, most notably in gains made in part-time jobs compared with full-time positions.

The vast majority of the province’s gains last month — 25,700 jobs — were part-time compared with the addition of 7,800 full-time jobs.

Peacock suspects many of the gains in healthcare came from the hiring of part-time contact tracers.

The gains helped bring the province’s unemployment rate down 0.4 percentage points to 8%.

Canada as a whole added 84,000 jobs in October, while the national unemployment rate fell 0.1 percentage points to 8.9%.

But BMO chief economist Douglas Porter is cautioning that the pace of gains is set to taper off.

“Job gains are going to be increasingly tough to come by, especially in the face of renewed restrictions in many provinces. And there is still a lot of work to get employment back to pre-pandemic levels, as evidenced by the 8.9% jobless rate (vs. 5.6% in February),” he said in a note to investors.

“Overall, no big surprise here and no fundamental change to the outlook. If anything, it gives us some quiet confidence that the economy can deal with some renewed restrictions.”

B.C.’s own gains have been seesawing since the summer months, with the province adding 54,800 jobs in September — more than triple the 15,300 jobs added in August.

“The big question remains how much of the already slowing pace of job growth can be sustained given the resurgence in virus cases,” RBC Economics senior economist Nathan Janzen said in a note.

A record 425 COVID-19 cases were tallied in a single day this week in B.C. but unlike other provinces, no new restrictions have been imposed on the West Coast even as throngs of young people took to the Granville strip to party on Halloween.

While B.C. added 2,100 jobs last month in accommodation and food services, it's unlikely that sector would continuing making gains if new restrictions were to be imposed amid spiking COVID-19 case numbers.

Peacock of the BCBC said he hopes the impact of any potential restrictions will be limited “but it's going to unfortunately continue to hurt those hard-hit sectors, particularly food services.”

He added he would be surprised if any new restrictions meant the closure of non-essential retail outlets, similar to the lockdowns early on in the pandemic.

"Most industries are at levels of employment close to or above where they were prior to the pandemic, so it's not surprising advances have slowed in these areas,” TD senior economist Sri Thanabalasingam said in a note, referring to national numbers.

“At the same time, those industries beaten down by the crisis have seen employment put into reverse due to targeted restrictions levied by provincial governments, specifically Quebec and Ontario. This is the first bump on the road to recovery for Canada's labour market.”

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