Construction leads northeast job losses over the last year: report

Northeast B.C. has seen three straight months of job growth, but worry remains about the number of losses in full-time work and the construction and goods industries, and the impact that may have on the region's post-pandemic economic recovery.

A new report from the Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia, titled 'BC Check-Up: Work', confirms there were 1,200 jobs returned in September, following gains of 1,700 in August, and 1,800 in July.

But while the number of part-time positions grew by 2,000 in September compared to last year, full-time positions are down 3,100 year-over-year, according to CCPA figures.

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“Coming into the COVID-19 pandemic, employment in Northeast B.C. was stable and the region had a consistently low unemployment rate,” said analyst Ben Sander, a partner at Sander Rose Bone Grindle, in a news release last week.

“Unfortunately, the crisis pushed summer employment down to levels not seen since 2011. Thankfully, the region has seen three consecutive months of job growth, but worryingly full-time positions account for all remaining job losses, indicating underlying issues that will need to be addressed for a full economic recovery.”

northeast-employment-sept2020-pandemic
Northeast B.C. employment figures 2019-2020. - Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia

September unemployment was reported at 7% in the northeast, the lowest in all of B.C. for the second-straight month. That's good news after the region's workforce shrunk 6.3% to 37,000 jobs through the summer.

However, one in every two construction jobs across the region were gone in September compared to last year, a job loss of 2,800, the CCPA said. The sector leads all job losses, despite major projects such as Site C, the CCPA said. 

“While construction on some major projects is underway, the economic benefits for local communities have been limited and the job losses likely reflect weakness in commercial and residential investment,” said Sander. “These major infrastructure projects are key to our economic recovery, and going forward we need to ensure the benefits are realized across the region.”

Job losses were also heavily concentrated in the region’s goods sector, the CCPA said, with one in every four jobs displaced compared to last year. Employment in manufacturing was down more than one-third, or 900 jobs lost, the CCPA said.

“The region’s manufacturing industry was already experiencing some challenges prior to the pandemic, with several major closures over the past few years. With COVID-19, the situation has become much more precarious,” said Sander. “The goods sector is the economic engine of Northeast B.C. and the job losses pose a real risk to our region’s growth prospects.”

The CCPA says the region’s service sector has “strongly rebounded” from lows earlier in the pandemic, but many businesses are still being affected, it said.

Though the accommodation and food service industry added 300 jobs from August to September, the sector is still down 900 jobs, or 29%, year-over-year. 

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

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