Little change in February employment, but trend is positive

Statistics Canada’s February Labour Force Survey results pointed to a solid performance in B.C.’s labour market. On the employment front, total employment rose 0.1 per cent or 3,700 persons to 2.574 million persons, with gains in both full-time (up 2,300 persons) and part-time employment (up 1,400 persons). While gains were negligible, and statistically insignificant, hiring momentum has been positive. This was a fourth straight monthly increase and the seventh increase in eight months following a weak first half of 2018. Year over-year, employment rose 2.8 per cent, which was the second strongest among provinces and exceeded the national gain of 2.0 per cent. The Vancouver CMA outperformed the rest of B.C. as employment rose 0.6 per cent from January and 3.1 per cent, year over-year. Province-wide, total hours worked in the economy accelerated in February to 3.3 per cent from one per cent in January, refl ecting solid full-time job growth. Among sectors, there were few significant changes. On the downside, construction employment declined by 6,300 persons (2.7 per cent) and professional, scientific and technical services sector employment fell by 4,800 persons (2.2 per cent). Offsetting this were gains in health care and social assistance (up 5,100 persons or 1.6 per cent) and information, culture and recreation (up 4,100 persons or 3.1 per cent). On a 12-month basis, the service sectors have driven growth and have offset losses in the goods producing sectors. Sectors related to technology and professional services, tourism and transportation and warehousing have been the key contributors. Labour shortages remain pervasive. The unemployment rate fell to 4.5 per cent from 4.7 per cent. While this is above early-2018 lows, it is the lowest among provinces. B.C. employers are relying almost exclusively on population growth at this stage to meet hiring needs given elevated participation rates. Interestingly, wage inflation based on hourly wage rates has slowed. The latest reading was a disappointing 0.3 per cent year-over-year, compared to two per cent the prior two months and more than five per cent during the first half of 2018. This likely reflects a temporary pause while employers may be shifting to non-monetary forms of compensation.

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