There was good news for B.C.’s labour market in October.
Estimated employment in the Labour Force Survey climbed for the first time since May, jumping 0.6% or 15,300 persons to near 2.57 million. This regained about two months of losses and points to stabilization after a recent dip. Full-time employment, particularly among people 55 and over, gathered momentum.
While headline numbers were strong, net employment growth owed mostly to Metro Vancouver, where gains reached 28,000 persons or 1.9%. On aggregate, employment fell in the rest of the province.
Provincially, services employment was up a robust 0.8% from the prior month, and 3.5% year-over-year. Gains were specifically stronger in finance/insurance/real estate (up 1.4% from September and 7% from a year ago) and public administration (up 6% from September and 19.5% year-over-year). Service-sector employment growth has spanned across most sectors over the past year.
In contrast, weakness was observed in the goods-producing sector, which posted a 0.7% monthly decline and a 4.3% dip from a year ago. Natural resource sector employment has taken a hit over the past year, in part due to the forestry downturn.
While year-over-year employment growth in October at 2% was middling compared with other provinces, year-to-date growth has led the country with a 3% gain. B.C.’s unemployment rate was also lowest among provinces at 4.7%, compared with 5.5% nationally. This has contributed to accelerating wage growth, with average hourly wages up 5.8% year-over-year, compared with 4.3% nationally. Inability to find workers, and resistance to higher wages from some employers, may be constraining hiring.
Housing sales rose in October, fuelled by low mortgage rates, lower prices and pent-up demand. The federal First-Time Home Buyer Incentive may also be providing some lift for lower-priced units in the market. Multiple Listing Service sales in the Lower Mainland reached nearly 4,400 units during the month, marking a 42% increase from a year ago. Seasonally adjusted sales are at their highest level since early 2018, although still below pre-stress-test levels.
Market conditions have firmed considerably. Resale inventory is falling, reflecting increased sales volume and a declining new listings environment. The ratio of sales to inventory has risen to 24%, which is a level typically associated with a seller’s market and rising price environment. Current trends point to a clear recovery in housing-market conditions, and a nascent recovery in home values. Positive market trends look to continue as mortgage rates are expected to ease through early 2020. •
Bryan Yu is deputy chief economist at Central 1 Credit Union.