Jock Finlayson, Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer of the Business Council of British Columbia (submitted)

Jock Finlayson, Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer of the Business Council of British Columbia (submitted)

FINLAYSON: A Labour Day snapshot of the B.C. job market

From following health advice and ‘doing no harm,’ to not hiking fees – one business expert has a number of suggestions

The first three quarters of 2020 have been an eventful time for B.C. workers and the labour market generally.

The beginning of the year saw a near record-low unemployment rate, with employers in many sectors scrambling to find qualified people to fill vacant positions. Then COVID-19 arrived on the scene, throwing the global economy into a tailspin and prompting widespread business closures in Canada and other countries as governments sought to slow the spread of the virus.

Canada and B.C. suddenly entered a recession, with the national unemployment rate soaring from roughly 5 per cent in late 2019 to more than 13 per cent in April and May and millions of workers losing their jobs — at least temporarily. Strikingly, here in B.C. the “employment rate” fell from an average of 62.5 per cent in 2019 to just 57.6 per cent by July 2020 – an unprecedent drop.

In contrast to previous recessions, women have been somewhat harder hit by the labour market pain delivered by the COVID-19 shock.

In the early stages of the lockdown, employment among females tumbled 17 per cent, which was three percentage points more than for males. But with the re-opening of most consumer-facing businesses, many jobs held by women have come back. In August, employment among men remained 5.8 per cent lower than in February while for women it was down by 6 per cent.

Fortunately, the tide of job losses that kept us glued to our computer screens in March and April proved to be relatively short-lived. By May, a labour market rebound had kicked into gear, and it continued over the summer months as the provincial government’s economic re-opening plan was gradually implemented.

But by the end of summer, most of the re-opening related employment gains were firmly in the rear-view mirror. Job growth in August slowed to just 15,000, down from 70,000 the month before.

Employment still sits 150,000 below February levels. In addition, tens of thousands of recent high school and post-secondary graduates are searching for work in what remains a difficult economic environment.

As for the job market recovery, the “low hanging fruit” has already been harvested as previously shuttered parts of the economy have reopened. Looking ahead, the Business Council anticipates sluggish job creation over the balance of 2020 and well into next year.

This reflects, in part, our expectation that waves of layoffs lie ahead as more companies close their doors while others adjust to “new normal” conditions that involve less use of labour.

By year end, we project that employment will still be down by 120,000 or so compared to where it stood back in February. Many tens of thousands of additional British Columbians will be employed but working fewer hours than in pre-COVID days.

In short, there is still a lot of ground to cover to get back to a healthy labour market. B.C. policymakers must be laser-focused on the critical task of re-employing people who lost their jobs in the spring. The province also needs to prioritize establishing the conditions that will prompt more companies and entrepreneurs to invest in the province.

Jock Finlayson is executive vice president and chief policy officer of the Business Council of British Columbia

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Pamela Evans gazes lovingly at her four-year-old French bulldog Jack on Thursday, Nov. 5. The energetic young pup has regained his usual rambunctiousness after recently recovering from a significant illness brought on by consuming discarded cannabis new Brown’s Beach in Ucluelet. (Andrew Bailey photo)
Discarded cannabis a “frequent” threat to pets in Tofino-Ucluelet

“I couldn’t grab him fast enough to get it out of his mouth before he swallowed it.”

The School District 70 administration office in Port Alberni. AV NEWS FILE PHOTO
Four Alberni schools reporting COVID-19 exposures

Exposures occurred between Nov. 19 and Nov. 25 depending on the school

A lightning strike destroyed a radio repeater on Porter Mountain, shutting down the Ministry of Transportation and infrastructure’s highway cam at Sutton Pass. (BC Transportation and Infrastructure photo)
Lightning strike shuts down camera on Tofino-Ucluelet highway

“One of our radio repeater sites was recently struck by lightning.”

The Ahousaht First Nation confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Nov. 26, 2020. (Westerly file photo)
Ahousaht First Nation on lockdown over COVID-19

“Emotions are high. The anxiety is high. We want our community to pull through.”

A tongue-in-cheek message about wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 on a sign outside a church near Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection count climbs back up to 656

20 more people in hospital, active cases still rising

Dave Wallace coached the Parksville Royals for 23 years. (PQB News file photo)
B.C. baseball community mourns death of legendary Vancouver Island coach Dave Wallace

‘All who knew Dave and his passion for the game will miss him greatly’

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

A sign is seen this past summer outside the Yunesit’in Government office west of Williams Lake reminding visitors and members to stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
B.C. First Nation leaders await privacy commissioner decision on COVID-19 information

Release of life-saving data cannot wait, says coalition of First Nations

MLA Jennifer Whiteside is B.C.’s new minister of education. She is speaking out against Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld and asking him to resign. (Black Press)
New education minister calls on Chilliwack trustee to resign

Whiteside echoes former minister’s promise to look at options to remove Barry Neufeld

Peter Beckett. ~ File photo
Supreme Court of Canada to decide if it will hear appeal in 2010 wife murder trial

Peter Beckett has stood trial twice for murder in connection with the death of his wife, Laura Letts-Beckett

Tabor Home in Abbotsford. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
B.C.’s largest COVID-19 care-home outbreak records 19 deaths, 147 cases

Tabor Home in Abbotsford has been battling outbreak since Nov. 4

Most Read