BC LABOUR FORCE SURVEY – The Surrey Perspective

Surrey Board of Trade and Human Capital Strategies Surrey Business Leadership Perspective on the BC Labour Force Survey – For July 2020 Labour Force Statistics

The Surrey Board of Trade, in conjunction with Human Capital Strategies, as part of our role to inform businesses and policy makers and track economic recovery from the pandemic, releases our latest overview of the ‘Surrey Business Leadership Perspective on the BC Labour Force Survey’ for July 2020.

Data from Statistics Canada’s Monthly Labour Market Survey has become a key indicator of the employment impacts and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Changes in employment and unemployment, unemployment rates, industry trends, changes in occupational employment, regional and demographic variations and comparison with national trends is important information to drive future decisions for policy makers, community leaders, business organizations, educators, service providers, marketers, consumers and job seekers.

“The Surrey Board of Trade’s high-level perspective is that BC is well positioned fiscally and economically to move through the pandemic,” said Anita Huberman, CEO, Surrey Board of Trade. “Certainly, we have seen significant business closures and unemployment due to the pandemic, and this will continue in a very uncertain economic future. We still have a long way to go as we build a strong economic recovery.”

According to the Labour Force Survey for July, BC created more than 70,000 jobs – especially as more businesses re-opened their doors during Phase 3 of the BC Restart Plan.

“However, if we face another economic shut-down, which we don’t want, nor can the economy withstand, we do face a longer-term economic recovery. Surrey in itself has the greatest number of manufacturers, and a thriving development and construction sector. Many of our businesses were able to continue operation during the pandemic. What we need to pay attention to is the smaller businesses and those businesses that have entry level positions, where some employees are just claiming the CERB and other government benefits and not coming into work until benefits run out.”

BC Labour Force Survey Data
Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey, July 2020 (Released August 7, 2020)

Overall – Canada
·     Employment recovery is continuing across the country. All provinces except Nova Scotia (slight drop) saw gains in employment and reduced unemployment rates since June 2020 and earlier.

·     Canada gained almost 419,000 jobs between June and July 2020, a 2.4% increase in employment. This back to work trend has increased employment by almost 1.7 million jobs for a 9.3% increase since April.

·     The unemployment rate dropped to 10.9% in July from 12.3% in June, however it remains more than double the 5.6% rate in February 2020.

·     Employment in Canada still has 1,071,200 less jobs in July than in February 2020, a 5.7% decline due to the pandemic.

Overall – BC
·     Employment in the province increased by over 70,200 jobs or 3% between June and July 2020. This means BC has increased employment by over 233,000 jobs since the BC recovery started in April.

·     BC’s unemployment rate dropped to 11.1% in July from 13% in June, however it remains more than double the rate of 5% in February 2020.

·     Employment is still down by over 164,900 jobs between February and July 2020, a 6.5% deficit.
Goods-Producing Industries
·     While BC’s employment in the goods sector is 31,000 less than in February, it has seen an increase of 15,400 jobs since April including growth of 9,400 jobs in July, a 2.1% increase.

·     Goods-producing industries mostly saw small increases or decreases in jobs since June, with the biggest increases in manufacturing in July at 7,300 jobs for a 4.9% increase, and with construction growing by 5,000 jobs or 2.4% in July. While still down by over 28,000 jobs since February, BC construction has seen a recovery of 11,800 jobs since April.

·     The biggest drop in the goods sector was a decrease of 1,800 jobs or -6.8% in Agriculture in July compared to June.

Service-Producing Industries
·     Employment in the service sector increased by 60,800 in July, a 3.3% increase. While it has grown by over 216,000 jobs since April, services still have 133,900 less jobs than in February 2020.

·     The biggest employment gains in July were those previously hard hit by the pandemic:

–        Retail & wholesale trade – up more than 24,000 (6.8%) in July, and up over 52,000 jobs since the start of the jobs recovery in April; however, it still 24,500 less jobs than in February 2020.

–        Accommodation & food services – up more than 24,000 (16%) in July, and up 91,300 since April, but still lagging February employment by almost 21,000.

–        Other services (including personal services) – up 15,400 (5.8%) in the last month, and up almost 26,000 jobs since April; however, still at 64,300 less jobs now than in February 2020, a 19% shortfall in recovery.

·     After gains in employment since April, three industries – professional/scientific/ technical services, educational services, and health care and social services all dropped in July for a combined loss of 12,000 jobs. The good news is these three knowledge-based sectors have collectively recovered 35,900 jobs in employment since April, but their combined employment remains at almost 37,000 less than in February 2020.

·     Transportation and warehousing, and finance services saw slight gains of 6,000 and 2,500 jobs in July respectively.

·     Employment growth was mixed in occupational categories in BC, however unemployment rates for most continued to decrease from previous months and the peak unemployment rate period in April 2020.

·     July unemployment rates ranged from a low of 1.7% for health occupations to a high of 20.5% for art/culture/recreation/sport (ACRS) jobs. No surprise given large groups and events involving these latter occupations.

·     Occupations with biggest gains in July: sales and service grew by over 44,000 jobs (+8.4%); business, finance, and administration by over 32,000 (+10.1%); 14,800 (+20.2%) in ACRS positions; and 6,700 (+8.2%) in manufacturing.

·     Occupations with biggest losses in July: A drop of 14,400 jobs (-5.8%) in education, law, social, community, and government; and a decrease in employment of 9,400 (-2.9%) in trades, transport and equipment operator jobs.

·     Three industries combine for 162,300 jobs still not recovered since February: sales and service

(-88,600); ACRS (-40,900); and trades, transport, etc. (-32,800).

·     Unemployment rates in almost all occupational categories remain much higher in July than in February 2020.

·     All metropolitan and development regions in BC saw employment gains in July 2020. Unemployment rates either slightly decreased or increased, except in the Kootenay region (dropping from 16.1% to 12.9% in July) and the Northeast region (dropping from 10.7% to 9.5%).

·     Employment increased in Vancouver by 40,000 jobs in July and the broader Mainland/Southwest region by 50,800. However, the Mainland employment level is still 193,200 less than in February 2020. All other metro and development regions were the same in that their July employment was still lower than February levels.

·     Metro area unemployment rates in July were 13.3%, 11.2%, 9% and 8.5% in Vancouver, Victoria, Abbotsford-Mission and Kelowna, respectively.

·     In addition to the Mainland recovery, biggest job gains in July were in Vancouver Island/Coast (+18,300) and Thompson/Okanagan (over +12,000). More modest gains were seen in the smaller populated other regions.

Age, Gender and Other
·     The youth (15-24) unemployment rate in BC dropped to 23.3% in July from 27.8% in June, with male youth seeing an appreciable drop to 21.7% in July (30.3% in June) and female youth remained at around 25%. However, these rates are 156% above the February rate for all youth and over 4 times for female youth (from 6.2% in February to 25% in July); and almost double for male youth.

·     Overall, 43,500 less youth are employed in BC now compared to February, with female youth, representing the majority at 77% of this deficit or 33,500 less jobs since February.

·     For all ages, women’s employment in BC dropped by 26,000 in July compared with men’s decreasing by 14,100. The difference between February and July in employment is -79,900 for men and -81,000 for women.

·     All age and gender categories have shown increasing participation rates in recent months (women at 60% and men at 69.5% in July).

·     In terms of part-time work in BC, it increased slightly as a % of total employment from 21.3% in June to 22.7% in July, with women’s share being much higher at 29.9% of all jobs compared to 16.2% for men. Of the 70,200 new jobs in July, 48,500 or 69% were part-time, much higher than 22.7 average in the whole labour market.

·     In terms of class of worker, the biggest impact since February employment has been on private sector workers, down by 167,900 since then to July, even after growing by 72,700 in July. Public sector employment and self-employment levels have had modest impacts, with the latter growing by a net 2,000 jobs since February.

·     Economic activity in Canada and BC continues to produce employment increases and slightly reduced unemployment rates since April and continues in July, although slightly less than June’s growth.

·     In terms of job losses, BC’s economy is still in a trough from impacts of the pandemic and shutdowns; almost 165,000 jobs lost and not yet been recovered.

·     BC is well-positioned fiscally and economically to move through the pandemic. Continued employment recovery in the short-term will depend on further re-openings in certain sectors, safe work and consumer practices and mitigation of coronavirus outbreaks.

·     The July 2020 LFS data provides continued positive momentum for BC’s economic recovery. Longer term recovery will require smart public policies and private sector practices, and a collaborative development and the implementation of comprehensive provincial and regional economic recovery strategies.

Source: BC Stats – Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey, July 2020. Released August 7, 2020. Retrieved from gov/data/statistics/ employment-labour-market/lfs_ data_tables.pdf.


Kerry Jothen, B.A., M.A.


Anita Huberman
CEO, Surrey Board of Trade