Although the unemployment rate in the Kootenays declined from 6.5 per cent to 6.1 per cent from September 2021 to September 2022, it’s not necessarily all positive.
“While our region’s unemployment rate declined over the past year, that headline number overlooks some troubling trends,” said Mike Calder, CPA, CA, partner at BDO Canada. “Namely, the decline was due to less residents in our labour pool, and the region actually saw employment decline slightly over the past year.”
The statistics come from the BC Check-Up: Work, an annual report by the Chartered Professional Accountants of BC (CPABC).
The Kootenays’ labour participation rate – the portion of working-aged individuals actively seeking or employed – fell to 59.7 per cent in September 2022, a 1.5 percentage point decline from September 2021. As a result, the number of unemployed individuals (those seeking but unable to find work) fell by 7.3 per cent over the past year.
Total employment in the region reached 79,100 by September 2022, a 9.5 per cent decrease from the previous year. Since 2019 the total workforce in the Kootenays grew 2.7 per cent, with a population growth of 3.1 per cent.
The Kootenays didn’t see as severe a drop in employment during COVID as the rest of the province.
“Over the past three years, employment growth has only slightly lagged population growth, which is good,” said Calder. “However, the employment performance has varied widely by sector and industry and many employers have struggled to fill open positions.”
On the goods side of the workforce, there has been a significant decline in the construction industry workforce, which was down 43.8 per cent over the past year.
Service sector employment increased 9.7 per cent over the past year, as hospitality and retail/wholesale sectors recovered from severe job losses earlier in the pandemic.
The region also saw the job vacancy rate reach a record high of 8.2 per cent in the second quarter of 2022, representing about 6,100 jobs that employers were unable to fill.
“The Kootenays’ labour market continues to face significant challenges, including high job vacancies and an uneven recovery,” said Calder. “To enhance our economic prospects, we need to attract more workers, minimize barriers to entering the labour force, and provide additional skills training, particularly for industries experiencing the greatest labour scarcity.”