B.C. adds 3,400 jobs in January while snowy weather hurts workers

Snowy weather in January meant 238,290 B.C. workers lost hours due | Shutterstock

What happened: B.C.’s unemployment rate fell notably last month, while the province added jobs to the workforce

Why it matters: The West Coast had been on a losing skid throughout much of 2019

B.C. gained 3,400 jobs in January — the second time it’s added numbers to the workforce in the past eight months.

Data released Friday (February 7) from Statistics Canada reveals the province’s unemployment rate dipped to 4.5%, falling 0.3 percentage points from a month earlier.

However, the statistics agency noted the big decline in unemployment came as more British Columbians stopped actively searching for work.

The numbers were somewhat confounding to BMO chief economist Douglas Porter.

“B.C. continues to boast the lowest rate in the country at just 4.5%, despite reporting no job gains in the past year,” he said in a note to investors.

“A solid result [nationally] overall, although the details are a tad quirky, and may have been affected by the wildly differing weather patterns across the country last month—harsh in the West and Atlantic, mild in the middle.”

The bout of snowy weather that hit B.C. in January resulted in 238,290 workers losing hours due to the weather.

Gains were seen in wholesale and retail trade (+5,200 jobs), manufacturing (+4,800 jobs), and other services (+3,100 jobs).

B.C.'s biggest job losses came in public administration (-3,600 jobs) construction (-2,400 jobs), and accommodation and food services (-2,000 jobs).

TD senior economist Brian DePratto cautioned in a note to investors that the novel coronavirus outbreak stemming from China is likely to hit activity in the travel/accommodation sectors in the near-term.

Meanwhile, Canada as a whole posted gains of 35,000 jobs last month while the unemployment rate fell 0.1 percentage points to 5.5%.

“The blistering pace of hiring seen in Canada between late-2018 and mid-2019 has faded, but today's data suggest the labour market is far from grinding to a halt,” RBC senior economist Josh Nye said in a note to investors.

“Today's data reduce the urgency for the [Bank of Canada] to lower rates (market pricing for a cut pushed back from September to October) though we continue to think the door is open to a rate cut if the economy's rebound early this year proves underwhelming.”

In an economic outlook released earlier this week, the Business Council of B.C. forecast that province’s unemployment rate would eventually increase to 4.9% in 2020.

torton@biv.com

@reporton