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Northeast unemployment at 4.8% in November

Employment in northeast B.C. grew by 400 in November, with regional unemployment pushed down nearly a percentage point to 4.8%. There were 39,500 employed and 2,000 unemployed last month, according to Statistics Canada estimates released Dec. 4.
festival-plaza-fsj
Festival plaza under construction in Fort St. John in November 2020.

Employment in northeast B.C. grew by 400 in November, with regional unemployment pushed down nearly a percentage point to 4.8%.

There were 39,500 employed and 2,000 unemployed last month, according to Statistics Canada estimates released Dec. 4. Unemployment in the region was recorded at 5.6% in October, with 2,300 unemployed.

The northeast has seen the lowest unemployment in B.C. for the fourth-straight month, with the Cariboo region reporting the highest at 9.8%, followed by the Lower Mainland at 7.8%.

Overall employment here returned to pre-pandemic levels in October, with 5,900 jobs returned since the spring economic restart; 1,800 jobs were added in July, 1,700 were added in August, 1,200 were added in September, and 800 were added in October.

There were 39,000 employed and 1,700 unemployed in March, before pandemic-related job losses hit the region in April. At this time last year, there were 39,000 employed and 2,500 unemployed, with unemployment at 6% in November 2019

B.C. gained 23,900 jobs last month, bringing the unemployment rate down 0.9 percentage points to 7.1% compared with a month earlier.

Food services and accommodation added 7,300 jobs between October and November, however, that sector would presumably have been hurt by the new restrictions.
Transportation and warehousing (+6,300 jobs), and wholesale and retail trade (+6,200 jobs) also led with significant gains last month.

Construction (+5,700 jobs) and natural resources (+4,500 jobs) rounded out the industries adding the most positions.

British Columbia was the only Western province to add jobs to its labour force in November even as provincial officials urged British Columbians to limit travel and interact only with those in their own households.

The sizeable gains come the same month provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry began urging British Columbians to refrain from interactions with those outside their households — measures that would presumably limit time spent in businesses such as restaurants.

However, those pleas came about on Nov. 20 while Statistics Canada’s data reflect labour market conditions as of the week of Nov. 8-14.

Canada as a whole added 62,100 jobs last month, bringing the unemployment rate down 0.4 percentage to 8.5%.

Only Ontario made more gains in employment than B.C. last month, with 36,600 jobs added.

B.C. was the only Western province to add jobs as Manitoba (-18,100 jobs), Saskatchewan (-2,800 jobs) and Alberta (-10,800 jobs) all experienced losses.

“November's labour market improvement is a welcome development in the face of a rising second wave. We suspect the job cuts in the hospitality sector, and possibly retail, will bite much deeper in next month's report, as restrictions tightened notably immediately after this survey period,” BMO chief economist Douglas Porter said in a note, referring to national figures.

“But, overall, the report is firmer than expected, and suggests that the economy is dealing a bit better than anticipated with the early stages of the second wave. In turn, that puts a small degree of upside risk on our forecast for Q4 growth.”

TD senior economist James Marple concluded the impact of a second resurgence of COVID-19 is slowing the country’s recovery.

“Unfortunately, the labour market picture appears likely to deteriorate further in December. The rapid increase in caseloads has continued, and while provinces such as B.C. and Alberta have taken a softer touch to restrictions on high-touch industries, health concerns are likely to weaken activity in these provinces as well,” he said in a note.

“Fiscal supports such as expanded employment insurance, the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and the newly minted Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy will help ease the burden on worker and businesses in those areas of the economy. But this winter won't be easy. The makeup of Canada's labour market is likely to look different coming out of this pandemic than it did going in.”

Unemployment rates in B.C.:

  • Cariboo - 9.8

  • Lower Mainland Southwest - 7.8

  • Thompson-Okanagan - 7.4

  • Vancouver Island and Coast - 7.3

  • 
Kootenay - 6.2

  • North Coast and Nechako - 6.0

  • Northeast - 4.8

— with files from Business in Vancouver

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