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

Nine new COVID-19 cases announced in Interior Health region

The total number of cases since the pandemic started is now at 531 for the region

Motorcycle rider identified following fatal crash in Peachland

Michael Odenbach died in a motorcycle collision on Sept. 27

South Okanagan businesses surveyed on impact of COVID-19 during summer

Hospitality businesses are being asked to fill out a questionnaire

RCMP seeking witnesses to fatal Peachland motorcycle crash on Highway 97

One person died following a motorcycle crash south of Peachland on Sunday afternoon

Penticton officer hit by stolen Kelowna car that was later torched

RCMP are asking for the public’s help in a crime spree that spans from Kelowna to Osoyoos

Weekend sees 267 cases, 3 deaths in B.C.; Dr. Henry says events leading to COVID spread

There are currently 1,302 active cases in B.C., while 3,372 people are under public health monitoring

Lightning strike: Tampa Bay blanks Dallas 2-0 to win Stanley Cup

Hedman wins Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Liberals seek to fast track new COVID-19 aid bill after CERB expires

Government secured NDP support for legislation by hiking amount of benefits by $100 to $500 per week

B.C. VOTES 2020: Echoes of HST in B.C. debate over sales tax

Cannabis, tobacco, luxury cars still taxed in B.C. Liberal plan

Shuswap BC SPCA launches spay/neuter program for low-income residents

Program available to low-income residents in the region

More victims possible in Okanagan assault case

Vernon police have a man in custody but feel there could be more victims in the case

She warned her son about toxic drugs, then he was dead

Donna Bridgman’s son died at the age of 38 in Vancouver

Most Read