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'Acute labour shortages' continue as Thompson-Okanagan's low unemployment rate breaks record

The unemployment rate in the Thompson-Okanagan has hit a record low, according to a new study.

BC Check-Up: Work, the Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia’s (CPABC) annual report, lists the region’s unemployment rate as 3.2 per cent for October 2023 – a record for that month.

It’s also down 1.7 percentage points from October 2022.

But, unfortunately, it’s not quite a reason to be cheerful.

“While that might sound like good news on the surface, our low unemployment stems from a shrinking labour force rather than strong employment numbers,” Karen Christiansen said.

<who> Photo credit: 123RF

According to the report, there were 297,400 people working in the Thompson-Okanagan in October of this year, representing a marginal decline from the previous October.

There were also 6,300 fewer people looking for work.

“As a result, the labour force participation rate — the proportion of the working-age population who were either employed or unemployed — fell by 4.5 percentage points during the year to 58 per cent,” the CPABC explained.

There were also just under 19,000 unfilled positions in the second quarter of the year, a decline of close to 4,000 from the same period last year.

“Looking at the broad range of indicators, there are signs the labour market in the region has softened a little over the last year,” Christiansen added.

“Acute labour shortages still exist, however, as employers are struggling to find enough suitable candidates in many industries.”

The majority of jobs in the region are, by a long distance, in services, with 227,700 employed in the sector.

That’s down by 13,500 on a year-over-year basis.

Losses recorded in the trade (7,800) and information/culture/recreation (5,700) sectors contributed most to the decline.

Education, meanwhile, added 4,400 workers.

Goods-sector employment totalled 69,700, holding steady compared with 2022.

“The region faces a number of challenges going forward,” Christensen said.

“Attracting workers to fill existing skill gaps, especially as the population ages, is a priority. Travel and tourism will continue to be a staple of the regional economy, and supporting growth in other industries is critical to the Thompson-Okanagan’s economic success.”

According to the same report, BC’s overall unemployment rate was 5.4 per cent in September 2023.

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