Why a better unemployment rate doesn’t mean a better economy - InfoNews

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Why a better unemployment rate doesn’t mean a better economy

A slowdown in housing construction in 2018 contributed to a decrease in jobs in the Thompson-Okanagan regions.
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June 20, 2019 - 4:30 PM

KELOWNA - Knocking one percentage point off the unemployment rate in the Thompson-Okanagan last year was not a good news story.

The region’s unemployment rate fell to 6.1 per cent in 2018 from 7.1 per cent in 2017.

But, according to Regional Checkup 2019, a document produced by the Chartered Professional Accountants of B.C., that was largely due to a shrinking labour force.

The report says 7,000 people left the work force during 2018 compared to 2017.

The report didn’t offer any explanation for the drop but goes on to note that the number of jobs in the region fell by 4,400 to 255,200.

Again, there was no explanation for that job loss but Human Resources and Skills Development Canada put the numbers into an historical context.

There was record growth in the labour force in the region in 2017, Christopher Simard, a spokesperson for the department, said in an email. It grew by more than 10,300 jobs or 3.8 per cent that year.

“This regional growth was driven by the construction sector (+15%), but that growth was not sustained in 2018 (-5%),” Simard said. “One explanation could be the introduction of new federal and provincial legislation that slowed the housing boom in the region.”

Wildfires were also blamed for some of the job losses.

“In the summer of 2018 there were serious wildfires and smoke levels in the Okanagan Valley,” the media department’s email stated. “This made working conditions for fruit picking unsafe and affected agriculture employment. It went from 6,200 to 2,700 between 2017 and 2018. Similarly, industries related to tourism (e.g., accommodation and food services and information, culture and recreation) were impacted by the presence of smoke in the region.”

Regions where the labour force shrunk

Cariboo: 2,100
Kootenay: 2,400
Northwest: 2,400
Thompson-Okanagan: 7,000

Regions where the labour force grew
Northeast: 1,000
Southwest: 17,200
Vancouver Island: 9,000

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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