“Across the region, economic activity has been picking up momentum as restrictions eased,” said Karen Christiansen, FCPA, FCA, partner at MNP LLP in Kelowna. “To meet increasing consumer demand, businesses in the region have hired nearly 13,000 workers over the past year. However, one concerning trend is a sustained decrease in the proportion of residents looking for work.”

In fact, the Thompson-Okanagan’s workforce shrank by 1.5 per cent since September 2019, and unemployment remained well above 4.5 per cent in that month. The number of people actively employed or searching for work has also failed to return to pre-pandemic levels. In September 2021, the participation rate was 63.5 per cent, down 2.5 percentage points from September 2019.

“The lower proportion of people looking for work puts additional pressure on businesses looking to hire, contributing to the rising shortage of labour in the region,” continued Christiansen. “Still, our employment gains are promising in both the service and goods sector. Another good indication that we are on the recovery trajectory is that the number of full-time positions are outpacing part-time positions.”

The service sector workforce increased by 12,300 positions over the past year, strengthened by health care and finance/real estate related positions. In contrast, hospitality positions were slightly down over the past year and are nearly a third lower than in September 2019. Goods sector employment was up by 0.7 per cent over the past year, primarily due to construction positions increasing by 23.4 per cent.

Despite overall employment remaining below pre-pandemic levels, the number of full-time positions worked in September 2021 were slightly above September 2019. In contrast, part-time positions were down 9.5 per cent over the same period.

“The data suggests many former part-time workers have left the labour force,” concluded Christiansen. “That is also reflected in the significant decline in hospitality positions, an industry that has struggled to find workers. As the region continues to recover, it will be important to find ways to reduce barriers for those looking to re-enter the labour force.”

Thompson-Okanagan Sep-19 Sep-20 Sep-21
Unemployment rate (%) 4.5 9.0 5.4
Employment (1,000s) 310.0 292.5 305.4
Full-time (1,000s) 240.2 229.1 242.1
Part-time (1,000s) 69.8 63.4 63.2
Participation rate (%) 66.0 64.2 63.5

To learn more, see www.bccheckup.com. Data is from Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey, follows a moving three-month average and is not seasonally adjusted.