BRITISH COLUMBIA – According to the latest BC Check-Up: Work report, an annual release by the Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia (CPABC) examining employment trends across the province, BC’s unemployment rate jumped to 5.4 per cent in October 2023, up from 4.6 per cent the previous year.
“The jump in BC’s unemployment rate indicates that the labor market is cooling down somewhat,” said Lori Mathison, FCPA, FCGA, LLB, president and CEO of CPABC. “However, the economy has still been resilient during a period of persistently higher levels of inflation and interest rates.”
In August 2023, BC’s job vacancy rate declined by 1.6 percentage points year-over-year to 4.2 per cent, but employers were still actively recruiting for nearly 105,000 unfilled positions. Between October 2022 and October 2023, BC’s workforce grew by 50,500 workers (+1.8 per cent), with two-thirds of the increase happening in the last three months.
Wages grew 7.8 per cent in September 2023 year-over-year, and outpaced inflation (3.3 per cent) over the same period. Since September 2019, average wages have grown by an annualized rate of 5.8 per cent, compared to a growth rate of 3.7 per cent for consumer prices.
“Rising wages and workers shifting towards higher-paying industries have caused an increase in real wages over the longer term. However, it should be recalled that in 2022, inflation reached a 40-year high and workers lost purchasing power.” continued Mathison. “Despite wage growth, affordability remains a concern for many households as people are putting more money towards essentials, such as food, shelter, and gas.”
The report also highlighted employment changes by industry. As of October 2023, there were 2.3 million British Columbians employed in the service sector, a 3.1 per cent increase from last year. Overall, employment in the goods sector fell by 3.9 per cent on a year-over-year basis, as the manufacturing and construction industries contracted.
“The slowdown in construction, although consistent with a high interest rate environment, comes at a time when new infrastructure is needed to address affordability and accommodate our growing population,” concluded Mathison. “In our latest member survey in August 2023, 88 per cent of CPA respondents identified housing prices as the greatest obstacle to business success. Looking ahead, it is critical that we prioritize policies aimed at bolstering the housing supply, and ensure the province continues to attract new residents.”
To learn more, see www.bccheckup.com.