B.C.’s top national, global companies struggle in pandemic

Average employment at the 20 largest firms dropped 6.4% over the past year

The largest national and global companies operating in British Columbia have struggled through the pandemic, according to data collected on Business in Vancouver’s Top National and Global Companies Operating in B.C. list (https://biv.com/lists). 

Despite growing during the first year of the pandemic, average B.C. employment fell during the past year by 6.4%, to 5,568.3 in 2021 from its five-year high of 5,948.8 in 2020. The decline in employment wiped out the modest 5.8% employment growth posted in 2020, and average employment levels have now fallen below 2019 levels.

Median employment at the province’s largest global and national companies did not suffer as big a blow as average employment has experienced this past year. It declined 2.7% in 2021 from 2020.

While median employment has decreased through both pandemic years, the employment losses in 2021 were half those of the 4.7% decline in median employment in 2020. This suggests that while larger companies higher on the list were able to offset 2021’s employment contraction with the previous year’s growth, smaller companies lower on the list have been losing B.C. employees for two straight years.


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No. 1 Jim Pattison Group has had the largest five-year growth by far among the top five. Over the past five years, it has increased its B.C. employment by 39.6%, employing 24,500 in 2021, compared with 17,555 in 2017.

This is more than double the growth of No.2 Walmart Canada, which had the second-largest five-year growth at 15.2%, posting an increase to 10,600 employees in 2021 from 9,200 in 2017.

Amazon (Nasdaq:AMZN) has had the largest one-year growth. It surged by 71.9% to 5,500 employees in 2021 from 3,200 in 2020. (Because Amazon opened its Vancouver office in 2018, the company does not have five years of employment data available for this year’s list.) •