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Northeast B.C. unemployment jumps to 5.3%, job growth halts across province

Local unemployment rises for second-straight month
B.C. added 9,100 jobs in transportation and warehousing in March

Unemployment in northeastern B.C. jumped more than a percentage point to 5.3% in March, according to the latest data from Statistics Canada.

According to the monthly labour force survey, there were 33,900 people employed and 1,900 unemployed in the region last month.

Employment has dropped considerably year-over-year from last March, when 36,100 were reported to be working and unemployment was too low to report by Stats-Can due to confidentiality reasons.

Month-over-month, there were 900 fewer people working than in February, when unemployment was reported at 4.1%.

Across B.C., job growth grinded to a halt in March, as the province lost 100 jobs overall.

This comes after B.C. had been showing signs for months that its labour market was slowing. The 6,700 jobs added in February were preceded by the addition of 8,000 jobs in January and the addition of 17,000 jobs the month before that.

Despite the static jobs growth, B.C.’s unemployment rate fell 0.6 percentage points between February and March, reaching 4.5%, as fewer people participated in the labour market.

In the northeast, the participation rate was posted at 64.3%, down from 67.2% this time last year.

B.C. unemployment rates, March 2023

  • Kootenay - 3.2%
  • Vancouver Island/Coast - 3.6%
  • Thompson/Okanagan - 4.7%
  • Lower Mainland/Southwest - 5.2%
  • Northeast B.C. - 5.3%
  • North Coast & Nechako - 6.3%
  • Cariboo - 7.1%

B.C. saw jobs lost in agriculture (-5,000 jobs), construction (-4,000 jobs), and health care and social assistance (-5,800 jobs). Gains were seen in transportation and warehousing (+9,100 jobs), and accommodation and food services (+3,700 jobs).

Meanwhile, Canada added 35,000 jobs last month as the unemployment rate remained static at 5%.

The subdued jobs data comes the same month the Bank of Canada chose not the hike its key rate for the first time in a year. The central bank had sought to cool the economy through rate hikes in a bid to tamp down on high inflation.

TD senior economist James Orlando said the national jobs market is showing no signs of slowing and the Bank of Canada knows the economy is still running too hot.

“Looking beyond the headline, the fundamentals remain solid. Workers continue to clock in more hours every week and their wages are rising,” he said in a note.

“With all the jobs gained in the private sector (although nearly half were part-time), there is strong underlying momentum that continues to build in the Canadian economy.”

Despite indications the economy is not slowing enough to the Bank of Canada’s liking, CIBC senior economist Andrew Grantham said he doesn’t expect the central bank to hike its key rate at its next policy announcement April 12.

“However, with gains in employment appearing to be narrowing by sector, we still suspect that overall job gains will lag the rapid growth in the population as 2023 progresses, seeing the unemployment rate rise modestly and wage inflation ease,” he said in a note. “That will keep the Bank of Canada on hold this year, before allowing for rate cuts starting early in 2024.”

— with files from Glacier Business Wire

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