Jock Finlayson, Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer of the Business Council of British Columbia (submitted)

Jock Finlayson, Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer of the Business Council of British Columbia (submitted)

FINLAYSON: A Labour Day snapshot of the B.C. job market

From following health advice and ‘doing no harm,’ to not hiking fees – one business expert has a number of suggestions

The first three quarters of 2020 have been an eventful time for B.C. workers and the labour market generally.

The beginning of the year saw a near record-low unemployment rate, with employers in many sectors scrambling to find qualified people to fill vacant positions. Then COVID-19 arrived on the scene, throwing the global economy into a tailspin and prompting widespread business closures in Canada and other countries as governments sought to slow the spread of the virus.

Canada and B.C. suddenly entered a recession, with the national unemployment rate soaring from roughly 5 per cent in late 2019 to more than 13 per cent in April and May and millions of workers losing their jobs — at least temporarily. Strikingly, here in B.C. the “employment rate” fell from an average of 62.5 per cent in 2019 to just 57.6 per cent by July 2020 – an unprecedent drop.

In contrast to previous recessions, women have been somewhat harder hit by the labour market pain delivered by the COVID-19 shock.

In the early stages of the lockdown, employment among females tumbled 17 per cent, which was three percentage points more than for males. But with the re-opening of most consumer-facing businesses, many jobs held by women have come back. In August, employment among men remained 5.8 per cent lower than in February while for women it was down by 6 per cent.

Fortunately, the tide of job losses that kept us glued to our computer screens in March and April proved to be relatively short-lived. By May, a labour market rebound had kicked into gear, and it continued over the summer months as the provincial government’s economic re-opening plan was gradually implemented.

But by the end of summer, most of the re-opening related employment gains were firmly in the rear-view mirror. Job growth in August slowed to just 15,000, down from 70,000 the month before.

Employment still sits 150,000 below February levels. In addition, tens of thousands of recent high school and post-secondary graduates are searching for work in what remains a difficult economic environment.

As for the job market recovery, the “low hanging fruit” has already been harvested as previously shuttered parts of the economy have reopened. Looking ahead, the Business Council anticipates sluggish job creation over the balance of 2020 and well into next year.

This reflects, in part, our expectation that waves of layoffs lie ahead as more companies close their doors while others adjust to “new normal” conditions that involve less use of labour.

By year end, we project that employment will still be down by 120,000 or so compared to where it stood back in February. Many tens of thousands of additional British Columbians will be employed but working fewer hours than in pre-COVID days.

In short, there is still a lot of ground to cover to get back to a healthy labour market. B.C. policymakers must be laser-focused on the critical task of re-employing people who lost their jobs in the spring. The province also needs to prioritize establishing the conditions that will prompt more companies and entrepreneurs to invest in the province.

Jock Finlayson is executive vice president and chief policy officer of the Business Council of British Columbia

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Corey Harkness, who is free on bail, is slated to make his first appearance in B.C. Supreme Court in Kamloops on Dec. 14, 2020. A trial date has not yet been set. (COREY HARKNESS/FACEBOOK)
Accused in Cache Creek homicide will stand trial

Corey Harkness, 33, is charged with second-degree murder

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
47 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health region

1,538 total cases, 399 are active, ten in hospital

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 65 new cases of COVID-19

Province-wide, there are 887 new cases of the virus

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 70 new cases overnight

The total number of cases in the region is now at 1,426

The TNRD will no longer be offering free disposal days at its 29 solid waste facilities throughout the region. (Photo credit: TNRD)
TNRD votes to end free disposal days at solid waste facilities

Mattresses and tires on rims to be added to items that can be brought in at no charge year-round

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks along the seawall in North Vancouver Wednesday, November 25, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
911 new COVID-19 cases, 11 deaths as B.C. sees deadliest week since pandemic began

Hospitalizations reach more than 300 across the province

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

More than 60 cm of snow has fallen at Ulkatcho First Nation near Anahim Lake in the Chilcotin since a snowfall warning went into effect Thursday, Nov. 26. (Graham West photo)
VIDEO: More than 60 cm of snowfall in Chilcotin since Thursday, Nov. 26

Graham West of Ulkatcho First Nation captures the scene on video

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Alexandre Bissonnette, who pleaded guilty to a mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque, arrives at the courthouse in Quebec City on February 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mathieu Belanger - POOL
Court strikes down consecutive life sentences; mosque shooter has prison term cut

The decision was appealed by both the defence and the Crown

Gold medallists in the ice dance, free dance figure skating Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, of Canada, pose during their medals ceremony at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Charlie Riedel
Olympic champions Virtue, Moir and Tewksbury among 114 Order of Canada inductees

Moir and Virtue catapulted to national stardom with their gold-medal performances at the Winter Olympics in 2018

Shoppers line up in front of a shop on Montreal’s Saint-Catherine Street in search of Black Friday deals in Montreal, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Black Friday shopping in a pandemic: COVID-19 closes some stores, sales move online

Eric Morris, head of retail at Google Canada, says e-commerce in Canada has doubled during the pandemic.

School District 27 announced the first confirmed case of COVID-19 this week (Nov. 23) at Lake City Secondary School Williams Lake campus. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Entire gym class at northern B.C. high school isolating after confirmed COVID case

Contact tracing by Interior Health led to the quarantine

Most Read