April uptick for B.C. business confidence

Despite a minor drop in national sentiment, B.C. businesses were upbeat in April, registering a gain of 4.3 points in April to an index level of 64.1 points according to the latest Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) Business Barometer.

This was the first uptick after holding steady for three consecutive months. Moreover, short-term optimism about the next three months also gained traction despite geopolitical uncertainty, with a six-point gain to 57 points in B.C. – the highest since October 2021. Small-business confidence likely reflected the resumption of activities in warmer weather and loosening travel restrictions in effect since April 1. The index is measured on a scale of zero to 100, and any reading over 50 points means the majority of small and medium-sized enterprises are expecting their business performance to be stronger in the coming year. Nationally, hospitality sector businesses reported the highest boost of short-term expectation (16 points) in April.

As one of the most popular Canadian travel destinations that relies heavily on its tourism industry, B.C. may see robust activities and strong business performances in the coming months. Nevertheless, inflationary pressures, supply chain disruptions and a tightening labour market continue to pose challenges to the business outlook.

Statistics Canada’s February 2022 data from its Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours shows that the number of employees receiving pay or benefits from an employer rose in B.C. by 0.8 per cent month over month or nearly 20,000 net new employers on payroll.

Services-sector hiring remained strong as the province created an additional 17,195 net new jobs or nearly 83 per cent of all net new hiring in February; the goods sector accounted for the remainder of new hiring. Sector hiring has now been on a nine-month expansion supported by more modest public health orders compared with other regions in Canada, elevated demand from a large inflow of interprovincial residents and a rebound in international immigration. Compared with pre-pandemic times, non-farm payroll hiring is up nearly 57,000 net new workers.

Among large sectors, hiring increased broadly with significant gains in manufacturing, construction, retail and wholesale trade, health care and social assistance, among others.  Job counts fell in real estate, rental and leasing and management of companies and enterprises. •

Bryan Yu is chief economist at Central 1 Credit Union.