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B.C. leads in job creation numbers, but more work ahead, says recovery minister


By Dirk Meissner

VICTORIA — British Columbia posted the top job recovery rate in Canada last month and the province’s unemployment rate has dropped below six per cent, but there’s more work ahead, says Economic Recovery Minister Ravi Kahlon.

Statistics Canada reported Friday that B.C. added 12,300 jobs in September, with the unemployment rate declining to 5.9 per cent.

Kahlon said B.C.’s employment rate is higher than it was before the pandemic began. The figures also show B.C.’s recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic is gaining strength provincewide, with the Prince George, Okanagan and Cariboo areas posting the strongest gains, he said.

“We have the fastest recovery in the country,” Kahlon said at a news conference. “We’re also seeing wages go up.”

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A senior B.C. business analyst cautioned against placing too much optimism for an early recovery because the pandemic is ongoing and some business sectors, especially tourism, hospitality and entertainment, still face disruption.

“While B.C. has gained back the jobs lost in the spring of 2020, employment has not fully recovered in some segments of the services economy,” Jock Finlayson, the Business Council of B.C.’s senior adviser, said in a statement. “In addition, many small businesses are struggling to survive and there is a risk quite a few of these businesses could disappear if the pandemic persists for another six to 12 months.”

He said the province can help boost the recovery by continuing to support the hardest-hit industry sectors, avoiding introducing policies that will increase costs for employers and being careful about “adopting a new mandatory paid sick leave policy in 2022.” Some businesses that don’t pay sick leave benefits will find it difficult to absorb those costs, Finlayson said.

The B.C. government is expected to introduce a mandatory sick leave program in January.

Kahlon acknowledged the recovery has not been as robust for everyone.

“We know that some communities, some people within our communities, have been disproportionately impacted and we want to ensure that everyone has the opportunity not only to get the skills, but the training they need,” said Kahlon.

The minister also announced an expanded tech sector training program on Friday that gives priority to some under-represented people, including Indigenous Peoples, women, immigrants and those who are disabled.

Kahlon said up to 2,000 people will get the opportunity to improve tech skills and knowledge through an expanded Canadian Tech Accelerator program, which is a collaboration between the province, digital companies across Canada and Microsoft Canada.

Peter Milobar, the Opposition B.C. Liberal party’s house leader, said the numbers show a lack of private sector job growth.

“I think what the NDP are leading the country in is public sector job growth,” he said.

Job losses in construction are mounting and the tourism sector continues to struggle, said Milobar, adding that the government does not appear to have a plan that invigorates the private sector, turns part-time jobs into full-time work and provides better jobs for people who are under-employed.

“We hear month after month that they are working on a plan, we never actually see it,” he said.

Kahlon said recently the government expects to introduce a long-term economic plan early next year.

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