British Columbia leads Canada in job creation, but a new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) suggests that growth is limited to the province’s south.
The report, released Jan. 9, found that more than 80 per cent of B.C.’s net jobs growth in 2016 was concentrated in Metro Vancouver, while much of the province saw job losses.
Using regional data in Statistics Canada’s Dec. 2016 jobs report, CCPA Senior Economist Iglika Ivanova found all but two of B.C.’s seven economic regions recorded net jobs losses in 2016.
“On the surface, it looks like a very good news story: B.C. is leading the other Canadian provinces on total job creation,” she said in an interview. However, “the numbers shows that 83 per cent of new jobs created have been in Metro Vancouver alone.”
“When you add Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, Squamish, Whistler and the Sunshine Coast, then basically 94 per cent of net job growth is there,” she added. “That’s because a lot of other regions, including the north, are losing jobs.”
Northeast B.C. saw a province-worst 2.5 per cent jobs decline in 2016, recording a 10.5 per cent unemployment rate in Dec. 2016.
Much of that stems from the oil and gas downturn that began in 2014. Hundreds have been laid off since prices collapsed that year, while drilling rates remain low.
Metro Vancouver, on the other hand, has seen high rates of job growth due to its film, tech and real estate industries.
“In the past few years with the overheated housing market in Metro Vancouver, and spilling out into Victoria and other places in the province, this is what’s fuelling growth,” Ivanova said—a trend which she did not see as sustainable.
While the B.C. government can’t control commodity prices, Ivanova said there are areas where the province’s job plan is falling short.
“We’ve completely neglected the forestry industry over the past decade, because the government has been so focused on trying to promote LNG and mining,” she said. “They’ve ignored this renewable resource and we’ve seen very little investment in forestry in general.”
While 2016 was a bad year for jobs in the northeast, the region has seen job gains over the longer term.
Northeast B.C. saw an average 4.8 per cent net job growth between 2008 and 2016, behind only the Lower Mainland, which saw jobs numbers grow 12.5 per cent. The Northeast and Lower Mainland/Southwest were the only regions to see net job growth in that time.