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Greater Victoria's unemployment rate inched up in April from March

As Greater Victoria recovers from the impact of the pandemic, a total of 218,000 people are working, down from 220,400 in March.
construction Victoria April 2022
New housing construction rises above the Victoria Conservatory of Music in Victoria on April 20, 2022. Construction was one of the sectors that saw increases in employment last month. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

The capital region’s unemployment rate climbed slightly to 4.4 per cent in April from 4.1 per cent in March, Statistics Canada said in its monthly labour survey released Friday.

As Greater Victoria recovers from the impact of the pandemic, a total of 218,000 people are working, down from 220,400 in March. That’s out of a labour force (people who are working and who are looking for employment) of 228,100, the federal agency said.

Year-over-year numbers have declined in business, building and other support services, educational services, and accommodation and food services.

Increases in employment were seen in sectors such as construction, transportation and warehousing, professional, scientific and technical services, and information culture and recreation.

Several sectors in Greater Victoria are crying out for workers, including hospitality, supermarkets, and those employing skilled trades. B.C. Ferries has been cancelling sailings in recent months because staffing levels are so low that if one person is unable to work, that could mean a ferry has to remain in dock. A minimum staffing level is required by Transport Canada on each vessel.

B.C.’s unemployment rate came in at 5.4 per cent in April veruses 5.1 per cent in March.

Ravi Kahlon, minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation, however, said that overall B.C. has 92,500 more people working than prior to the pandemic, the highest rate in Canada, he said.

“There are also 49,600 more people working in the private sector now than before the pandemic. This is one of the highest private-sector recovery rates in the country.”

In addition, B.C. leads Canada in overall GDP growth, Kahlon said.

“New data recently released shows B.C. had the highest real GDP growth of all major provinces in 2021, growing by 6.2 per cent.”

Nationally, the unemployment rate fell to another record low in April even as the pace of job creation slowed. Statistics Canada said the jobless rate fell to 5.2 per cent for April as the economy added 15,300 jobs.

That’s down slightly compared with the previous record low unemployment rate of 5.3 per cent set in March when 72,500 jobs were added.

“All of these indicators that we look at all tell the same story, and that is a story of a shrinking labour pool and an overheated labour market,” said Tu Nguyen, economist with accounting and consultancy firm RSM Canada.

Nguyen pointed to the record low unemployment rate of 4.3 per cent for workers aged 25 to 54 and the lowest rate of involuntary part-time employment on record at 15.7 per cent as indicators of how tight the job market has become.

Statistics Canada also said the adjusted unemployment rate — which includes people who wanted a job, but did not look for one — was 7.2 per cent in April, below the pre-pandemic level of 7.4 per cent.

Bank of Montreal chief economist Douglas Porter said the moderate gain in employment is a sign of much more normal conditions, but also one where the supply of new workers may be beginning to be the binding constraint on growth.

“For the Bank of Canada, this will do nothing to dissuade them from their tightening path, not with headline inflation aiming at seven per cent,” he wrote in a note to clients.

Inflation in March reached 6.7 per cent, and the Bank of Canada has said it expects inflation to average almost six per cent in the first half of the year. The central bank has indicated additional interest rate hikes are on their way in the coming months.

“The one item of news here that may help contain just how much the bank ultimately needs to hike is the ongoing calmness of wages,” Porter said.

Average hourly wages were up 3.3 per cent year over year in April compared with a year-over-year gain of 3.4 per cent in March.

Statistics Canada did note that the proportion of those making less than $20 per hour in April made up 25.9 per cent of all employees, down from 35.5 per cent in April 2019. Meanwhile, employees earning $40 or more per hour represented 24.5 per cent of employees, up from 18.0 per cent three years earlier.

The jobless rate in April fell to its lowest point since at least 1976, which is as far back as comparable data goes, as the number of jobs in professional, scientific and technical services rose by 15,000 in April and the public administration category gained 17,000.

The number of people working in retail trade fell by 22,000 in April and those working in construction dropped by 21,000.

However, the effects of the pandemic continued to be felt in the economy as the total hours worked in April fell 1.9 per cent compared with March, due in part to illness-related absences from work. A blizzard in Manitoba also affected the hours worked in that province.