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Job Market Improving…But Employment Growth in BC Remains Soft

By Ken Peacok

July’s revised labour force report from Statistics Canada shows that employment growth remains sub-par in the province.  The total number of people working did not change in July.  But this sideways result follows an increase of 6,700 jobs the previous month.  The past two months have seen a decent gain in the aggregate number of people working in the province and extends the modest positive trend that has been in place for seven or eight months. 

While the upward trend in jobs is welcome, the growth has been underwhelming and employment levels are just slightly higher than they were two years ago.  The BC job market was especially weak in 2013, and so far 2014 is showing little indication of snapping back.  The average employment level over the first seven months of the year is just 0.5% above that for the same period a year ago.  

There are a couple of important things to note, however. The first is that BC is not alone. Taking the same year-to-date measure, Canadian job growth is just +0.7%.  And if Alberta – where employment has surged 3.2% so far this year – is excluded from the national total, then the year-to-date job growth figure for Canada slips to a feeble +0.3%. 

The other point to consider relates to the different classes of employment which have seen divergent patterns over the past year.  The number of private sector payroll jobs in BC has actually rebounded and on a year-to-date basis is up 2.8% this year.  Similarly, employment in the broad public sector (which includes health care and education) is up 2.3%.  The third class of workers, self-employed, is down a sharp 8.9% using the same year-to-date measure.  So what this suggests is that more companies are stepping up hiring and payrolls are expanding, while much of this hiring activity appears to be drawing from the pool of self-employed individuals.  The fact that total employment growth is weak is still a concern, but private sector payrolls growing at a solid pace counts as good news.