More people are working now in northwestern B.C. than a year ago, indicate figures released Jan. 7 by Statistics Canada.
But the official unemployment rate has crept up because more people now consider themselves as part of the labour force whether working or not, the figures show.
As of December 2020, 41,200 people were working in the region, a figure that rose to 42,900 in December 2021 for a net gain of 700 people.
The number of people who considered themselves as part of the labour force whether working or not also rose — from 43,600 people as of Dec. 2020 to 45,600 as of Dec. 2021 for a net gain of 2,000.
And that was sufficient to increase the official unemployment rate from 5.5 per cent in Dec. 2020 to 6.1 per cent in Dec. 2021.
The northwest region takes in Haida Gwaii in the west to just west of Vanderhoof and is based not on employment insurance data, but on interviews of people who consider themselves part of the labour force regardless of whether they are actually working or not.
The December 2020 and December 2021 figures continue an improvement in the northwestern B.C. jobs picture from the early days of the pandemic when the active labour force stood at 38,100 in April 2020 and 37,100 in May 2020.
Those were sufficient enough declines in the workforce to put the regional unemployment rate at 14.2 per cent by July 2020.
The northwest’s December 2021 unemployment rate of 6.1 per cent compares to the provincial rate of 5.2 per cent and is the highest among the province’s regions.
The Vancouver Island rate is 4.5 per cent, the Lower Mainland rate is 5.5 per cent, the Thompson-Okanagan rate is 4.6 per cent, the Cariboo rate is 4.5 per cent while the Kootenays has a rate of 6 per cent.
“With the release of Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey for December, we can confirm that despite a very challenging year for people and businesses, B.C. added more than 100,000 jobs throughout the province in 2021,” said provincial jobs minister Ravi Kahlon.
“The 101,000 jobs added in B.C. for the year marks a 3.9 per cent increase compared to 2020 job numbers, with 84,000 of these jobs being full-time jobs. In December 2021 alone, B.C. added 25,000 full-time jobs.”
Background information from Statistics Canada indicates the number people seeking employment at any one time does vary according to personal and other considerations.
“Some people — referred to as discouraged searchers — want a job but, do not look for one because of business conditions or because they believe no work is available. The number of discouraged searchers typically increases during economic downturns, and then recedes as job searchers regain confidence in the labour market,” the agency stated.