As B.C. and other parts of Canada recorded significant job gains last month, the Thompson-Okanagan moved in the opposite direction, statistics show.
Figures released Friday by Statistics Canada indicate the region’s population and labour force shrank over the past year while unemployment rose to 9.2 per cent from 8.8 per cent in April 2011.
In the same period, the province’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.2 per cent from seven per cent in March as 19,700 jobs were added to the economy. Of those, 16,700 were full-time positions.
That increase represents a surprisingly sharp gain, said Bryan Yu, economist with Central 1 Credit Union. The Lower Mainland outpaced outlying areas with employment climbing 1.2 per cent from March as unemployment fell to 5.6 per cent.
While the provincial government acknowledged there were some losses in the rest of B.C., Jobs Minister Pat Bell said the overall gains show significant progress and that the B.C. Jobs Plan is working.
B.C.’s unemployment currently ranks fourth lowest among the provinces.
“Every job counts for families in B.C. and it’s great to see that so many corners of our province are seeing positive results,” Bell said.
In the Thompson-Okanagan over the past year, the population dropped nominally to 436,700 from 437,300 a year prior. The labour force fell by roughly 6,000, from 281,000 in 2011 to 275,000 in 2012.
In terms of numbers during that period, employment went down by 7,000 jobs, from 256,000 to 249,000. The participation rate — the percentage of the population represented by the labour force — also fell, from 64.2 per cent to 63 per cent.
It’s important not to draw conclusions from a limited measure, said Fiona Chan, business centre manager with the Business Development Bank of Canada and chair of Venture Kamloops.
She cited B.C. labour market figures from March indicating that unemployment has dropped marginally in Kamloops while it rose in Kelowna. Kamloops Airport statistics, another economic indicator, have also improved.
The resource sector is probably the biggest economic driver in the immediate region, she said.
“I think Kamloops is in a good position,” Chan said. “We just have to make sure industry is active and we keep doing what we’ve been doing to ensure the economy is strong.”
From a bank standpoint, clients are shedding some of the reluctance shown in the aftermath of the recession, she added.
“I think we definitely find people are positive about the need to move forward, not like last year.”