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Northeast B.C. unemployment too low to report in March

But regional employment numbers continue to drop, with the estimated jobs count down by 1,900 since the start of the year, and down by 3,900 from this time last year
Installing reinforcement on a spiral case at Site C to prepare for the second stage of concrete pouring, February 2022.

For a fourth straight month, unemployment in Northeast B.C. has been too low to report by Statistics Canada.

According to the latest labour force estimates released today, there were 35,400 people employed in March out of an estimated labour force of 36,700.

Unemployment figures as well as the unemployment rate were suppressed to meet confidentiality requirements of the Statistics Act. StatsCan says it suppresses estimates below 1,500 unemployed people to prevent “direct or residual disclosure of identifiable data."

With a reported labour force of 36,700 in March, there were about 1,300 unemployed, according to the data.

However, the number of people working in the region continues to fall from the start of 2022, with the estimated number of people employed down from 37,300 in January and 36,200 in February.

Year-over-year, employment numbers are down from March 2021, when 39,300 people were employed and unemployment was reported at 4.1%.

The region's labour force has also shrunk significantly year over year, down from 41,000 at this time last year. The percentage of available workers participating in the labour force is also still down sharply, from 74.8% last March to 66.1% last month.

Unemployment rates in B.C., March 2022

  • Northeast B.C. - N/A

  • Cariboo - 3.7%

  • Vancouver Island/Coast - 5.1%

  • Lower Mainland/Southwest - 5.2%

  • Kootenay - 5.3%

  • North Coast & Nechako - 5.9%

  • Thompson/Okanagan - 6.2%

B.C. added 10,500 jobs in March, the eighth straight month of gains.

But Friday’s latest data from Statistics Canada saw some sign significant see-sawing between different sectors.

Transportation/warehousing (+9,200 jobs), “other services” (+9,200 jobs) and positions related to the tech sector (+5,200 jobs) led the way last month, while education (-7,100 jobs) and manufacturing (-6,500 jobs) experienced notable losses.

Farming saw 800 more jobs last, with minor gains also seen in construction (+700), and forestry, fishing, mining, and oil and gas (+700).

Curiously, education was among the sectors to post the biggest gains just one month earlier, having added 8,800 jobs in February.

Statistics Canada makes data estimates based on surveys of random Canadians and extrapolates broader numbers from that.

B.C.’s unemployment rate moved up 0.2 percentage points to 5.1% as more people entered the workforce.

Meanwhile, employment across Canada grew by 73,000 jobs with the unemployment rate falling 0.2 percentage points to 5.3%  – the lowest level since at least 1976, according to RBC estimates.

The nation’s job count now sits at 442,000 positions above pre-pandemic levels.

“With the unemployment rate so low, virtually all industries are bumping up against labour shortages, including those hospitality sectors that have yet to fully recover. Wages are showing more signs of drifting higher, with average hourly earnings up 3.4 per cent year-over-year in March, up from 3.1 per cent in February,” Nathan Janzen, RBC asst. chief economist, said in a note.

BMO chief economist Douglas Port echoed Janzen’s sentiments, noting “the key takeaway is just how tight the job market now is, and that the employment recovery is now complete.”

TD senior economist James Orlando also sees the latest job numbers pushing up wage growth in the coming months.

“There is a lot of room for wages to catch up as Canadian's have seen their purchasing power eroded alongside the rapidly rising cost of living,” he said in a note.

— with files from Tyler Orton

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