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Capital region's unemployment rate inches up but labour shortage remains

Actual employment numbers stayed steady in the capital region at 214,800 June to July.
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Construction continues on the 115,000-square-foot Amazon facility on Victoria International Airport lands on July 26, 2022. The number of workers in the construction sector locally rose to 18,900 in July from 14,800 in July of last year, according to Statistics Canada. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Greater Victoria’s unemployment rate moved up slightly to 4.3 per cent in July from 4.1 per cent in June as a Canada-wide labour shortage continues.

The slight increase comes in the wake of a modest increase in the capital region’s labour force, representing those working and those looking for work, Statistics Canada said in its monthly labour force report, released Friday.

Actual employment numbers stayed steady in the capital region at 214,800 June to July.

The number of workers in the construction sector locally rose to 18,900 in July from 14,800 in July of last year, the federal agency said. Manufacturing numbers also climbed to 7,900 last month from 6,000 in July 2021.

Wholesale and retail trade increased to 29,400 workers in July from 27,300 year over year. The category of finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing rose to 11,800 workers from 9,900 in July 2021.

Health care and social services saw worker numbers increase to 34,500 last month from 27,700 a year prior.

Declines were seen in accommodation and food services — a sector that has been crying out for workers — which was at 14,700 last month, down from 18,800 in July 2021.

Public administration also decreased to 28,600 in July from 30,000 in July 2021.

B.C. added 14,900 full-time jobs last month as the province’s unemployment rate remained at 4.7 per cent.

Ravi Kahlon, provincial minister of jobs, economic recovery and innovation, noted that B.C. had the most people joining the workforce among the larger provinces.

“B.C.’s strong economic recovery and low unemployment rate continue to help lead Canada’s economic outlook,” he said.

The record low unemployment rate across B.C. is contributing the tight labour market, he said.

The province is investing funds to make education and training more accessible, affordable and innovative, he said, making reference to plans for a $98-million post-secondary school campus in Langford, announced this week.

B.C. is calling on the federal government to increase the number of skilled immigrants coming through the provincial nominee program to help solve the labour crunch.

Nationally, Canada’s unemployment rate stayed a historic low of 4.9 per cent in July, remaining unchanged from June.

Statistics Canada said the economy lost 31,000 jobs, marking the second consecutive month of job losses.

The number of public sector employees fell, while the number of self-employed workers rose. There was little change in the number of private sector workers.

Canada’s labour market remains exceptionally tight, with over one million job vacancies across the country. The unemployment rate is the lowest on record with comparable data going back to 1976.

Statistics Canada said despite the labour shortage, there is no evidence of a rise in the proportion of people leaving or switching jobs.

CIBC senior economist Andrew Grantham noted that the job losses in July were concentrated in the services sector, including wholesale and retail, education and health in a note on Friday morning.

“With some of those sectors reporting high vacancy rates, labour supply rather than demand appears to be the main issue,” Grantham said.

The labour participation rate for Canadians between the ages of 25 and 54 is relatively unchanged from where it was pre-pandemic.

The pace of wage growth also held steady compared with June, with average hourly wages rising 5.2 per cent year over year.

The Statistics Canada report also looked at the ongoing healthcare worker shortage, with a focus on nurses. According to Statistics Canada, more than one in five nurses worked paid overtime hours in July, the highest level since comparable data became available in 1997.

For comparison, about 10 per cent of all other employees worked overtime in July.

As Canada faced the seventh wave of COVID-19 infections, 11.2 per cent of nurses were off sick for at least part of the week when the labour force survey was conducted.

The Bank of Canada is paying close attention to employment levels in the country as it gears up to make its next key interest rate announcement in September, when it’s expected to raise interest rates once more.

While economic growth slows in the country as the central bank attempts to tame inflation with higher interest rates, economists have noted that the tight labour market makes the slowdown unique in its nature.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

— With reporting from The Canadian Press