B.C. adds 4,600 jobs in November as economy braces for effects of flood disaster

Full impact of floods not accounted for in StatsCan’s latest data

Statistics Canada's latest labour force survey was concluding just as severe floods got underway last month | Stefan Labbe, Glacier Media

Job growth appears to have held steady last month with B.C. adding 4,600 jobs to the economy, according to data released Friday by Statistics Canada.

But the national statistics agency’s labour force survey was finishing up just as last month’s catastrophic flooding got underway on the West Coast, leaving questions hanging over how the economy truly fared with job growth.

Unemployment remained at 5.6% — no change from October.

Meanwhile, Canada added 154,000 jobs last month while the national unemployment rate dipped 0.7 percentage points to 6%. That’s within 0.3 percentage points of the country’s pre-pandemic unemployment rate in February 2020.

The province saw big gains in jobs within health care (+8,300 jobs), professions associated with the tech sector (+7,900 jobs) and the hospitality sector (+5,600).

The biggest loss was felt in the construction industry (-9,500 jobs), which will likely see a bounce back in Statistics Canada’s next report as rebuilding efforts get underway on flood-affected regions of B.C.

“I'm very confident that we're going to continue to see strong economic growth,” B.C. Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon told BIV on Thursday, just ahead of Statistics Canada’s data release. 

“We're going to have to build some of that infrastructure that has been damaged. It’s been actually shown that some of that infrastructure is critical, not just for British Columbia, but for the country as a whole. And so we're going to have to invest to make those repairs.”

B.C. Construction Association president Chris Atchison and Brynn Bourke, executive director of the B.C. Building Trades union organization, both said this week the industry is still assessing the full extent of the repair work needed.

“A possible, and perhaps likely, driver of employment in November was the expiry of key fiscal measures like the Canada Recovery Benefit. Without income support, job search intensity likely picked up,” Sri Thanabalasingam, senior economist at Toronto-Dominion Bank (TSX:TD), said in a note, referring to gains on the national level. 

“Given the elevated number of vacancies in the labour market, unemployed Canadians were able to secure new employment rather quickly last month. Notably, employment in accommodation and food services was little changed in November, despite having the most vacancies (as of September), likely reflecting greater occupation switching.”

Both Thanabalasingam and Benjamin Reitzes, an economist at the Bank of Montreal (TSX:BMO), emphasized the Bank of Canada will need to take heed of the latest jobs data when considering whether to hike the overnight rate or leave it at 0.25%.

“Pressure is building on policymakers to pull back stimulus, but uncertainties (e.g. Omicron) continue to cloud the outlook. Still, given the strength in jobs and inflation, the risks are skewed toward an earlier start to Bank of Canada rate hikes,” Reitzes said in a note, referring to the new COVID-19 variant.

Meanwhile, CIBC senior economist Royce Mendes cautioned the impact of the floods could create a drag on Canada’s December employment figures.

torton@biv.com

@reporton