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Northeast employment holds steady to start 2021

Employment in northeast B.C. grew by 100 in January as job growth flattened across the province to start the new year . There were 40,100 employed and 1,700 unemployed last month, dropping the unemployment rate to 4.
NPA-construction-fsj-jan2021
Jonny Schaeffer works on exterior upgrades to the North Peace Arena, Jan. 25, 2021.

Employment in northeast B.C. grew by 100 in January as job growth flattened across the province to start the new year .

There were 40,100 employed and 1,700 unemployed last month, dropping the unemployment rate to 4.1%, according to the latest estimates from Statistics Canada on Friday, Feb. 5. Unemployment was at 4.3% in December, with 40,000 employed and 1,800 unemployed.

Year-over-year, unemployment is down from 4.2% at the start of 2020, when 39,000 were working and 1,700 were unemployed.

The northeast continues to have the lowest unemployment in B.C. for the sixth-straight month, with the Cariboo region reporting the highest at 8.8%, followed by the Lower Mainland at 7.5%.

Employment in B.C. expanded by 2,800 jobs in January — down from the 3,800 jobs added in December.

Growth the past two months is a far cry from mid-2020, when B.C. was adding anywhere from 15,000 to 120,000 jobs each month as the economy rebounded from the pandemic.

It appears the low-hanging fruit — jobs lost temporarily in sectors such food services and retail — has been mostly picked.

Instead, the province saw its biggest gains in professional, scientific and technical services (+10,100 jobs) and information, culture and recreation (+10,200 jobs), as activity in both the tech and film sectors remained buoyant.
Losses were most deeply felt in educational services (-7,700 jobs), and accommodation and food services (-7,600 jobs).

Altogether, the province added 4,500 full-time jobs and lost 1,700 part-time jobs last month.

The unemployment rate, meanwhile, grew 0.8 percentage points to 8% as more people entered the workforce.

While B.C.’s gains were muted in comparison to previous months, Canada lost a total of 213,000 jobs in January, while the national unemployment rate grew 0.6 percentage points to 9.4%.

BMO chief economist described the national numbers as “awful” but said there were a few mitigating factors: most losses were in part-time jobs, concentrated in a few sectors (retail, hotel, restaurants), and occurred in Ontario and Quebec.

“Looking ahead, it's tough to imagine that February will look much better as there have yet to be any big changes in overall restrictions since mid-January,” he said in a note, referring to the tighter restrictions in Ontario and Quebec that saw non-essential stores close.

“This disappointing result, alongside an earlier report of a deep dive in auto sales last month, shows in vivid detail that activity can only deal with so many restrictions before sagging meaningfully. While the job losses are highly concentrated, they are unlikely to see any improvement until restrictions are relaxed.”

Unemployment in B.C.:

  • Cariboo - 8.8


  • Lower Mainland Southwest - 7.5



  • Thompson-Okanagan - 7.4


  • Kootenay - 7.2


  • Vancouver Island and Coast - 7.1


  • North Coast and Nechako - 6.3


  • Northeast - 4.1


— with files from Tyler Orton/Business in Vancouver

Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at editor@ahnfsj.ca.