The CPA of BC says that when the unemployment rate falls to near 5 per cent, the labour market is near capacity.

Kootenay labour market stalled in latest report

If labour supply continues to shrink, employers will find it increasingly difficult to hire workers

According to the Chartered Professional Accountants of BC annual economic report, the Kootenay labour market contracted in the last year. The market is down one per cent.

The biggest decrease came in construction, as major project development slow down led to a loss of 800 jobs. Kootenay agriculture and utilities industries also experienced losses.

On the plus side, manufacturing, forestry, fishing, mining and oil and gas all gained jobs.

“Despite a decline in production at Teck’s four coal mines in the Elk Valley and the suspension of operations at Coal Mountain, the mining industry added 600 jobs,” said Mike Calder, CPA, CA, partner at BDO Canada LLP in Cranbrook. “Coal prices remained strong for a second consecutive year, and kept activity in our mining industry consistent.”

Although employment in the Kootenays’ service sector remained unchanged at 49,500 positions, employment was re-distributed across the sector. Accommodation and food services lost 1,400 jobs despite a successful year for the Kootenays’ tourism industry, which saw tourist entries increase by 6.4 per cent. The health care and social assistance industry added 1,100 jobs in 2018, with new employment opportunities in hospitals, social assistance services, nursing and residential care facilities, and ambulatory health care services.

And despite a reduction in job numbers, the unemployment rate fell by two percentage points, to 5.3 per cent. This was mainly due to a decrease in the labour force of 2400 people, leaving fewer people unemployed.

“When unemployment rates fall to five per cent, it indicates that the labour market is near capacity,” noted Calder. “If our labour supply continues to shrink, employers will find it increasingly difficult to hire workers. This could hamper or delay business expansion plans.”

A spokesperson for the CPA of BC, Vivian Tse, said that there is no clear reason for why there was a reduction in the labour force.

“In general terms, it could be due to an increase in number of retirees, people who found work elsewhere (e.g. in Alberta), and/or people opting out of the labour force (stop looking).

“However at the same time the labour force contracted, Employer Insurance data indicated that the number of recipients fell by 19 per cent in 2018.”

The Kootenay Development Region is comprised of three Regional Districts: the Kootenay-Boundary, Central Kootenay, and East Kootenay. It accounts for nearly 3.2 per cent of the provincial population.

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