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Data Points: B.C. employment sees soft expansion led by part-time work

Services sector drives employment gains while manufacturing jobs decline
The Vancouver census metropolitan area (CMA) saw a 0.7-per-cent increase in its employment level, while the area’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.3 per cent, according to StatCan.

Following the modest increases seen in previous months, B.C. employment expanded by a robust 23,400 people (0.8 per cent) in April with year-over-year growth of 3.3 per cent. This contributed to a steep half-point decline in the unemployment rate to five per cent, even as the labour forced continued to expand.

However, with part-time employment driving growth (up 30,200 people or 5.4 per cent) and a drop in full-time employment of 6,700 people, conditions were softer than headlines would appear. The Vancouver census metropolitan area (CMA) saw a 0.7-per-cent increase in its employment level, while the area’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.3 per cent.

By sector, B.C. services-producing industries led the growth in employment seen in April with a 1.2-per-cent increase, offsetting the 0.8-per-cent decline across goods-producing industries. The province’s manufacturing sector saw the highest proportional monthly decline at 3.2 per cent (down 5,600 people), leading the overall decrease. The information, culture and recreation sector (up 23,400 people or 16.6 per cent) reported a recovery in hiring in April following the large decline seen in March. Hiring growth was also seen in sectors such as accommodation and food services (up 3.3 per cent) and transportation and warehousing (up 2.7 per cent).

B.C. building permits plunged in March. The monthly decline came after two prior monthly increases. Total building permit values fell 24.3 per cent to $1.7 billion, more than countering the 5.3-per-cent gain in February. This was due to lower permit issuances in both the residential and non-residential sectors, with construction intentions declining by 12.2 per cent and 45.8 percent, respectively. Year over year, total permit values fell by 35.1 per cent.

That said, first quarter permits were still 20 per cent higher than the weak fourth quarter, and they were led by commercial and industrial non-residential permits.

March residential building permits fell to $1.2 billion during the month as multi-family dwelling permits decreased. Multi-family building permits fell for the second consecutive month and were down by 16.4 per cent. However, single-dwelling residential permits posted a seven-per-cent gain in March, adding to the prior 3.7-per-cent increase in February. 

Non-residential permit values plummeted to $424.2 million as all but one sub-category posted declines during the month. After a huge gain in February, industrial permit values fell by 91.6 per cent, while commercial permits fell by 42.1 per cent. Meanwhile, government permits issuances rose by four times the value registered in the prior month.

The majority of B.C.’s census metropolitan areas posted mixed results in March. Vancouver saw a 22.7-per-cent decline in monthly permit values, which were down 44.9 per cent on a year-over-year basis. In Abbotsford-Mission, permits dropped by almost 62.7 per cent following the significant gains seen in February. Kelowna also saw permit values decline by 29.1 per cent during the month. In contrast, permit values were up in Victoria (15.2 per cent), Nanaimo (13.8 per cent), Chilliwack (7.3 per cent) and Kamloops (2.4 per cent).

Bryan Yu is chief economist at  Central 1.