CPABC: COVID-19 continues to displace 15,000 jobs across Thompson-Okanagan

After strong gains over summer, job growth slows as tourism season comes to end

Vancouver, British Columbia, CANADA

KELOWNA, British Columbia, Nov. 03, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- According to the BC Check-Up: Work report by the Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia (CPABC), the Thompson-Okanagan’s labour market faced similar challenges as the rest of the province, experiencing a significant reduction of jobs across various industries. 

“Summer months in the region are usually busy with tourism, harvesting, construction, and other activities that fuel our region’s economy. But due to COVID-19, for the first time since August 2001, the Thompson-Okanagan saw its summer unemployment rate spike above ten per cent,” said Karen Christiansen, FCPA, FCA, partner at MNP LLP in Kelowna. 

Since the lowest point in May, the region has recouped jobs in four consecutive months over the summer and into September, helping lower the unemployment rate to 9.0 per cent. Despite the gains, overall employment remained down 5.3 per cent in September 2020 compared to last year. Both the goods and services sector suffered from job losses, losing 3,000 and 11,900 positions respectively. In the goods sector, the losses were led by the construction industry (-5,800 jobs) but offset by a significant increase in the region’s agricultural sector (+2,700 jobs).

“Despite ongoing development and increasing demand seen over the summer in the region’s real estate market, construction employment remains down compared to last year,” continued Christiansen. “However, that’s relative to the historically high levels of construction activity witnessed over the past few years.”

Losses in the region’s service sector were concentrated in retail/wholesale trade; hospitality; and information, culture and recreation industries, where jobs heavily require human interaction and are driven by tourism and consumer activity. However, over the summer the service sector has gained momentum and recouped much of the early employment displacement. 

“Thankfully, it appears the worst of the economic damage may be behind us as business activity has picked up over the past few months with containment measures easing and B.C. residents coming to the region for staycations,” noted Christiansen. “Still, the situation remains more challenging than in previous years with the loss of international tourism and more rigid business requirements. As expected, momentum slowed in September with the weather turning.”

Gains in some service industries helped minimize the losses. In particular, the “other” services industry, which includes personal and household services, saw an increase of 7,200 positions. The health care and social assistance; finance, insurance, and real estate; as well as professional, scientific and technical services industries also experienced some job gains. 

“2020 has been a challenging year for everyone. As we continue into fall and tourism slows, we will have more bumps ahead on our road to recovery,” concluded Christiansen. “It is important that we continue to support the region’s businesses and workers, so that we can weather this pandemic together.”

To learn more, see Data is from Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey. Monthly data follows a moving three-month average and is not seasonally adjusted. 

For more information:
Aaron Aerts, CPABC Economist


Unemployment rate (%)4.64.510.19.0
Employment (1,000s)282.3284.6267.6269.6
Part-time (1,000s)6764.459.659.5
Full-time (1,000s)215.2220.1208210.1

About CPA British Columbia
The Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia (CPABC) is the training, governing, and regulatory body for over 37,000 CPA members and 5,000 CPA students. CPABC carries out its primary mission to protect the public by enforcing the highest professional and ethical standards and contributing to the advancement of public policy. CPAs are recognized internationally for bringing superior financial expertise, strategic thinking, business insight, and leadership to organizations.