Penticton continues to experience a robust job market | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Penticton continues to experience a robust job market

A job fair hosted by the City of Penticton and Work BC on Nov.26, 2019, had 50 people turn out to speak with six city employers.
November 30, 2019 - 6:00 AM

Penticton’s job market is looking pretty healthy these days, says the city’s economic development specialist.

The city co-hosted a job fair with Work B.C. earlier this week, after Andrew Kemp thought it would be a good opportunity to pair recently displaced workers with a new employer.

“It was after Metric Modular reduced their activities in the city. With their numbers cut by almost half, I thought it was a good time right before Christmas to have a job fair and employ some of them. I knew there were some employers in the city looking for help,” Kemp says.

Metric laid off 45 employees in August and another 20 more recently, depleting the firm's full workforce of 135 by almost half, with potentially more layoffs to come, Kemp says.

Tuesday's job fair drew 50 job seekers, who were able to meet with six of the city’s employers.

“I would say the economy is humming along pretty good here,” Kemp says, noting the region’s unemployment rate has fallen a full percentage point over the past year, from 5.6 to 4.6 per cent.

“There are challenges in the manufacturing sector, as much of what is produced here is destined for international markets, which are often subject to the ups and downs of other jurisdictions” he says.

Kemp says Penticton's demographic, with a higher than average population of seniors, might present employment challenges in parts of the labour market where physical labour is needed, but could also be an enhancement for the senior health care industry, where a more senior employee's life experience is a closer match for those in care.

He notes the volunteer level, which is often made up of a large number of seniors in Penticton, is "super high" which helps the community's economic needs in other ways.

"It (the demographic) is a bit older in Penticton than the average, but 54 per cent of our population is still working age. Yes, we're on average about nine and a half years older than the provincial population. That might cause stresses and benefits," he says.

Kemp is hoping to host another job fair sometime in March, 2020. In the meantime, he’s also working on creating more low cost housing projects in Penticton, calling the lack of affordable housing a key barrier restricting the job market in the city.

“It’s probably the biggest problem employers here have attracting help. People can’t afford to live here,” he says.

He’s actively looking for an opportunity for another project like the recently completed social housing project called “The Rise” on Nanaimo Avenue.

The project, jointly built by local social service groups, B.C. Housing and the City of Penticton, provides reduced rent for people earning up to $80,000 annually. If they earn more, they can’t live there.

“It’s a problem across the country,” he says of the high cost of housing.

Kemp says he’s seen little sign of an influx of Alberta residents looking for work in the South Okanagan. If anything, there may be a few more retirees who have decided to make the move now the Alberta economy has taken a downturn.

“I’m not at all concerned about the Penticton economy. We’ve done a good job expanding the tourist season over the last five to 10 years. We’re not bulletproof, but looking at larger economic trends, I’m happy about what’s happening here,” Kemp says.

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