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Victoria's unemployment rate drops again in November, with strong gains in hospitality

A sandwich board outside El Furniture Warehouse on Yates Street in Victoria on Friday says the company is hiring. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST Dec. 3, 2021

Victoria’s unemployed rate improved in November and remains one of the lowest in the country thanks to strong gains in the hospitality industry and the financial markets, according to Statistics Canada’s monthly labour force survey.

Victoria’s unemployment rate hit four per cent last month, down from 4.4 in October and 6.4 in November 2020.

The number of people employed also improved, with 208,200 working last month compared with 204,400 in October and 204,600 a year ago.

The accommodation and food services sector in the region added 4,000 jobs over the past 12 months, while finance, insurance and real estate added 3,300 and educational services added another 3,000.

Health care shed about 2,700 jobs and public administration another 2,300 in the same period.

The four per cent unemployment rate was bettered only by Quebec City at 2.8 and Sherbrooke, Que., at 3.4 per cent.

Provincial Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon said this month’s survey shows B.C. workforce remains stable, though officials are waiting to see what effect November’s extreme flooding will have on the labour market.

The job survey took place before the floods in mid- November.

“Our province has endured one challenge after another — from COVID-19, to last summer’s heat dome, wildfires and the recent devastating flooding and mudslides — but the resilience and grit of people, businesses and communities has shone through at every turn,” Kahlon said. “I often say people are our competitive advantage — and the strength, determination and kindness shown by British Columbians over the past two years has proven it.”

Kahlon said the province is leading economic recovery through the pandemic with a job recovery rate of 102 per cent, meaning 55,000 more people are employed in B.C. today compared with before the pandemic.

“B.C.’s strong recovery has been noticed across the country and internationally. Through the first nine months of 2021, about 80,000 people arrived from across Canada and around the world to make B.C. their new home,” Kahlon said, noting that will be crucial in tackling the ongoing labour shortage.

The provincial unemployment rate was 5.7 per cent last month, down from 5.9 per cent in October and eight per cent last November.

Nationally, the country’s labour market shook off more of the shock from COVID-19 by adding 153,700 jobs in November, pushing the unemployment rate to a pandemic-era low and sending the share of the core working population with a job to an all-time high.

The growth dropped the unemployment rate to six per cent. Driving the drop in unemployment was a plunge of 62,000 in the number of long-term unemployed who have been out of job for six months or more, marking the first monthly drop since August. Statistics Canada said the decline was especially sharp for those out of work for at least 12 months.

Total hours worked also returned to pre-pandemic levels in November.

“So many positive trends tell us that, finally, these workers are seeing the light at the end of the COVID tunnel,” said Tu Nguyen, an economist with accounting firm RSM Canada.

Gains followed the end of a federal unemployment benefit that some economists suggested might have jump-started job searches.

But Kaylie Tiessen, an economist with the Unifor union, said the Canada Recovery Benefit, alongside business subsidies, could be credited for saving jobs by helping affected households keep their purchasing power.

“Those things together prevented many businesses from collapsing, which meant that people had jobs to go back to as things were opening again,” Tiessen said. “Government intervention in times of crisis prevents further economic collapse and also speeds economic recovery.”

With unemployment declining and job vacancies ticking upwards, the statistics office said signs point to new or worsening labour shortages or skill mismatches.