CPABC: Vancouver Island’s workforce shrinks, driven by a down-turn in construction employment

DUNCAN, British Columbia, Dec. 04, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- According to BC Check-Up: Work, an annual report by the Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia (CPABC) on labour market trends across the province, Vancouver Island and Coast’s (excluding Greater Victoria) unemployment rate was 4.1 per cent in November 2023, up 0.6 percentage points from the previous year.

“Evolving from incredibly tight labour market conditions in 2022, there have been signs of softening during 2023,” said Woody Hayes, FCPA, FCA. “That said, the unemployment rate is still lower than what it was pre-pandemic, and a lot of employers are still having trouble with recruitment.”

Total employment for the region was 216,600 in November 2023, down 4.3 per cent compared to November 2022. Since 2019, employment has grown by 7.4 per cent, outpacing working-age population growth of 6.4 per cent over the same period.

The labour force participation rate—the proportion of the working-age population who were either employed or unemployed—was 54.2 per cent in November 2023. The rate fell 3.1 percentage points year-over-year but was in line with the November 2019 rate.

“Our workforce contracted over the past year, erasing gains made between 2021 and 2022,” noted Hayes. “Outcomes vary across the local economy of course, and we are seeing some industries face additional headwinds.”

As of November 2023, there were 179,000 Vancouver Island and Coast (excluding Greater Victoria) residents working in the service sector, little changed from November 2022. Compared to November 2019, the service sector in the region has added 25,200 workers, representing cumulative growth of 16.4 per cent.  Trade, health care, and professional services have accounted for most of the employment bump, while hospitality employment remains below pre-pandemic levels.

Meanwhile, the number of people working in the goods sector fell by 15.7 per cent over the past year. Losses were concentrated in Vancouver Island and Coast’s construction industry, which shrank by 10,200 workers. The year-over-year contraction also marks a retreat from November 2019 employment levels in the sector.

“Looking ahead to 2024, attracting newcomers to the region who can address current labour shortages while ensuring that our infrastructure can support a growing population are both priorities,” concluded Hayes. “It’s important that we strike the right balance.”

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About CPA British Columbia

The Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia (CPABC) is the training, governing, and regulatory body for over 39,000 CPA members and 6,000 CPA candidates and 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.

CPABC Media Contact:
Jack Blackwell, Economist