The regional unemployment rate dropped to 5.2 per cent in October, nearing levels not seen since boom years prior to the last recession.
The jobless rate in Thompson-Okanagan is down from 7.3 per cent in September last year. Other positive numbers in the Statistics Canada report were seen in the regional labour force, which grew by several thousand people either working for search for work.
Pat Bell, B.C.’s Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training, said Friday the city gained 200 jobs last month.
The unemployment rate within Kamloops was 6.4 per cent. Economists warn against relying on the city numbers, however, because statistics can skew month to month. Even the larger region is subject to some variations.
Bell said regional markets are driving job growth across B.C. Those include Kamloops, Kelowna, Prince George and the Okanagan.
Across B.C. the unemployment rate was 6.8 per cent, down .5 per cent from the same month last year.
Jack Juusola, owner of Canadian Tire outlets in Kamloops, said the improving numbers aren’t a surprise.
Five years ago during the last economic boom the jobless rate crept as low as four per cent. But Juusola said hiring now is far easier than during that labour shortage.
“We’re not seeing the same turnover as then.”
Nonetheless, Juusola said the city economy appears to be strengthening enough that he is posting help wanted signs at his stores.
Despite the gains in employment, population in the region shrank by nearly 3,000 people in the past year, indicating discouraged job seekers may be leaving for other climes.
Nationally, the economy grew by 52,000 new jobs — the biggest jump in years.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s office issued a statement that he was “encouraged” by the latest Canadian gains, noting that they bring to 820,000 the number of new jobs added since July 2009, when the economy started to recover from recession. Flaherty said it was the best job creation record in the G7.
The gain in Canada was the third biggest of the year and surprised the experts, which had expected a pickup of just 10,000 jobs.
But the gain wasn’t enough to put a dent in the national unemployment rate, which edged up one-tenth of a point to 7.4 per cent. That’s because while thousands of Canadians found work in September, even more — 72,600 — joined the labour force.
Economist Erin Weir of the Progressive Economics Forum said the jump in Canadians entering the workforce suggests many are still waiting in the wings for prospects to improve.
Economists also pointed out that the details were not as strong as the headline suggests, including the fact that two-thirds of the new jobs where in the self-employment category.