COVID-19 Pandemic Decimated Region’s Service Sector, While Goods Sector Provides Stability
VICTORIA – According to the BC Check-Up: Work, an annual report by the Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia (CPABC) on employment trends across the province, the COVID-19 pandemic fallout pushed Greater Victoria’s unemployment rate to 10.6 per cent in Summer 2020 (June to August).
“Last summer, at just 3.6 per cent, Greater Victoria had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country,” said Lindalee Brougham, FCPA, FCA, principal at Grant Thornton LLP. “The surge in unemployment is not surprising given how heavily the region relies on service sector activity, which is particularly vulnerable to the actions taken to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, such as physical distancing and reduced travel. Thankfully, the region experienced a bounce back over the summer and into September.”
Since the low point in May, Greater Victoria has recouped jobs in four consecutive months, helping lower the unemployment rate to 9.3 per cent in September. However, that rate is well above pre-pandemic levels and significant job losses remain. In September, Greater Victoria’s total employment fell by 3.1 per cent compared to last year, a loss of 6,100 jobs. The job losses were entirely concentrated in the service sector, in particular those relating to tourism.
The three industries that experienced the largest annual employment decline were the accommodation and food services; other services (e.g. personal and household services); and information, culture and recreation industries. Together, these industries employed 23,400 workers in September, a significant decline from the 33,900 employed last year. In contrast, the region’s largest employer, public administration, experienced a 3.6 per cent increase to 29,100 positions, now accounting for over one in every seven jobs.
“As the region relies heavily on tourism activity and corporate travel, it was not surprising to see sharp declines in hospitality, personal services, and entertainment positions. With flight restrictions and cruises on hold for the foreseeable future, it is possible some of these jobs may take years to return. In this context, it will be important to provide displaced workers support like targeted skills training so they can secure employment again,” noted Brougham.
One positive sign was in the goods sector employment, which expanded by 2.3 per cent, largely due to strength in manufacturing and ongoing construction projects across Greater Victoria. The construction industry employed 16,600 workers in September, up nearly 600 positions from a year ago, while manufacturing employment was up over 20 per cent.
“One area that has flourished despite the pandemic is real estate development. Across Greater Victoria, the many projects underway will help maintain our region’s economic stability,” concluded Brougham. “We need to further encourage development to both fuel our economic recovery and improve housing affordability.”
To learn more, see www.bccheckup.com. Data is from Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey. Monthly data follows a moving three-month average and is not seasonally adjusted.