Employment declines at communications firms preceded pandemic

Shaw’s 35% drop in employment was large contributor to dip in average employment

Employment in many sectors has shrunk because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but a reduction in staff numbers is not a new phenomenon for B.C.’s top telecom companies, according to Business in Vancouver’s Biggest Communication Technology Firms in B.C list (biv.com/lists).

The average number of employees working at the province’s largest communication technology firms peaked in 2018 at 963.8. Since then, employment numbers have slipped each year.

This year posted the steepest decline, with a 7% drop in the average number of employees – to 841.9 from 904.9 in 2020. The decline in average employment over the past year was enough to erase all the growth recorded in 2018 and dragged the average employment number to below that year’s peak.

But while average employment has been consistently falling over the past several years, the median employment number for the top communication technology firms has moved in the reverse direction. It has grown each year from 2017 to 2020 and increased 24.3% to 87 employees in 2021 from 70 five years ago.

While the median number of employees showed no growth over the past year, it did not drop during the pandemic. This suggests that while larger companies higher on the list struggled over the past few years, companies lower on the list expanded their employee base. Norsat International Inc. (No. 16) had the largest one-year decline on the list, falling 36.8% to 55 employees in 2021 from 87 in 2020. Paladin Technologies Inc. posted the highest one-year growth on the list with a 9% jump in employees, to 387 in 2021 from 355 in 2020.

Shaw Communications Inc. (No. 2) is a major contributor to the average employment decline over the past four years. Since 2017, B.C. employment at Shaw fell 35.1% to 3,203 in 2021 from 4,936 in 2017. Shaw also experienced a 10.5% drop in employment over the past year from 3,577 the year before•

– Albert Van Santvoort