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Part-time employment surges as B.C. adds 35k jobs in March

Province loses FT workers as 42k PT jobs added last month
B.C. added 35,000 jobs in March, according to the latest StatsCan data | Photo: Juan Monino / Getty Images

For the second month in a row, employment gains in B.C. were buoyed by growth in part-time jobs as the province added 35,000 positions to the labour force in March.

Full-time work took a hit last month, however, with Statistics Canada reporting Friday the province lost 6,700 full-time jobs between February and March.

Instead, big gains on the West Coast were dominated by the 41,800 part-time jobs added to the labour force.

Unemployment remained unchanged at 6.9%, while the national employment rate dropped 0.7 percent points to 7.5% — the lowest the country has seen since before the pandemic as Canada added 303,000 jobs overall last month.

The latest labour force survey was conducted March 14-20, prior to the latest restrictions imposed on B.C. businesses late last month amid surging cases of COVID-19.

B.C.'s biggest gains in employment were felt in healthcare and social services (+11,000 jobs); information, culture and recreation (+7,600 jobs); and manufacturing (6,600 jobs).

The biggest losses were felt in public administration (-7,100 jobs); other services (-4,300 jobs); and professional, scientific and technical services (-3,400 jobs).

“Re-imposed containment measures in some regions will probably weigh on employment in April. But larger-than-usual government supports are still in place for those losing work, so household purchasing power will remain resilient to any near-term labour market weakness,” RBC senior economist Nathan Janzen said in a note.

“Vaccines remain the light at the end of the pandemic-tunnel, and distribution continues to ramp up even as virus spread escalates.”

BMO chief economist Douglas Porter echoed Janzen’s sentiment about expected job losses in April amid tighter restrictions in some provinces.

“Still, the big message from today's report is that it is now quite clear that prior job losses can be recovered surprisingly quickly when the economy more fully re-opens,” he said in a note.

“There's not much subtlety in today's blow-out figure, with almost all regions and sectors benefitting from the snapback. While the strong results arrived with the big asterisk that April will see a setback, this is still very good news indeed.”

TD senior economist Sri Thanabalasingam said he expects still-struggling sectors to bear the brunt of renewed restrictions across the provinces.

"Retail, accommodation and food, and personal care services have been heavily targeted in renewed measures, implying a widening of the K-shaped employment recovery," he said in a note.

“The next couple of months could prove challenging for Canada's labour market.”

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