According to the Island Coastal Economic Trust (ICET), reports that all of the recent provincial employment increases were in the Lower Mainland or the capital region are somewhat overstated.
The Island Coastal region, which includes all of Vancouver Island outside the Victoria metropolitan area, as well as mainland coastal areas from Powell River to the the Central Coast, has also “posted solid growth of 1.7 per cent in the past year,” according to a recent ICET report.
While that number pales in comparison to the numbers in the Lower Mainland – 4.7 per cent for the “Vancouver Metro” area and 4.9 per cent for the “Other Mainland/Southwest” area in the recent Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey – it could be seen as impressive in relation to the -2.5 per cent growth in the “Northeast” area or -2.3 per cent in the Kootenays.
“Even better news for regional residents is growth in full time employment, which was six per cent last year, the highest in B.C.,” says Phil Kent, chair of ICET. “Full time jobs are an indicator of higher quality employment, associated with higher incomes and better non-wage benefits.”
The ICET release on the most recent job growth numbers says the region saw a net increase of 3,000 jobs from 2015 to 2016 and a conversion of 4,800 part-time jobs to full-time ones.
Shannon Baikie, regional manager of community and labour market services with the North Island Employment Foundation Society (NIEFS), says the numbers in the ICET report mirror her findings in the Campbell River region, pointing to a late surge in 2016 of full-time job postings as boding very well for the area in terms of employment growth.
Comparing the 2015 and 2016 annual figures, Baikie says, while there were a similar number of full-time positions advertised with NIEFS (58 per cent of job postings overall during both years were for full-time positions), that number jumped by seven per cent in the final quarter of the year (October to December).
Part of the reason for the spike during that period – which would normally see increases in part-time or seasonal retail sectors going into the holiday season – is the strength of the forestry sector.
“Forestry’s been very strong,” Baikie says. “It still continues to have many different opportunities in terms of the range of occupations within the industry, from the harvesting side to the technical-type positions and certainly the trades positions – equipment operators and whatnot. We certainly don’t generally see them at the top in this quarter, but when you look at the annual statistics, they’re always near the top.”
In fact, Forestry positions made up 17.7 per cent of the regional NIEFS job postings from October to December, while retail/wholesale positions only made up 10.1 per cent.
The largest areas of growth, according to ICET, were in public administration (+2,600 jobs), construction (+2,500) and manufacturing (+1,600), while the greatest losses were in professional, scientific and technical services (-1,100 jobs), wholesale and retail trade (-1,400) and healthcare and social assistance (-3,300).
Baikie says those numbers are also consistent with what she sees happening in and around Campbell River.
“It’s not surprising to me to see such a high number in terms of public administration work,” Baikie says. NIEFS statistics are based on postings to their job boards, so Baikie’s internal numbers don’t reflect that particular range of jobs, she says, “because we don’t get too many of those types of postings, so we don’t usually see that as very high, but I do know that, in the larger statistics that are based on the census, that’s a large opportunity in terms of occupations.”
She adds the upcoming work expanding and renovating the Campbell River campus of North Island College, the continuing BC Hydro work in the region and the opening of the new hospital should add to the area’s employment numbers going forward.