Kamloops made significant employment gains in the past year while the Thompson-Okanagan as a whole lost jobs.
The varied economic performance was part of a mixed bag of employment indicators released on Friday by Stats Can, showing modest gains for B.C. while the provincial unemployment rate remains static at 6.3 per cent.
Despite the fact that the Thompson-Okanagan lost 8,500 jobs in the previous 12 months, the unemployment rate dropped markedly to 6.9 per cent from 8.6 per cent, suggesting that workers were either leaving the region to find work, leaving the workforce or retiring.
The city, on the other hand, has seen a 3.3 per cent drop in unemployment in the same period, to 6.3 per cent from 9.6 per cent, representing an overall gain of 2,100 jobs in just one year.
“Let me say, 2,100 jobs in one year in a report like that doesn’t surprise me,” said Jim Anderson, executive director of Venture Kamloops. He said he’s seen a considerable upswing in activity just in the past month and expects the trend to continue.
“I can tell you, we are experiencing a real trend of local businesses looking to expand. Things are going quite well for Kamloops.”
Established businesses, including lots of small firms, are approaching the economic development agency with expansion plans, he noted.
Pat Bell, minister of jobs, tourism and skills training, said the indicators reflect increased investment and more exports to trading partners.
“Overall, I think we’ve started to move back to good job growth,” Bell said. B.C. was second in Canada in terms of job creation, adding 19,800 in February, mostly in full-time positions. That suggests the stagnant trend of the past six months is turning around.
“The interesting part is that a majority of those jobs are being held by women — 15,000. That’s pretty good news and a way to celebrate international Women’s Day.”
With its B.C. Jobs Plan a key election plank, the Liberal government was quick to promote signs of a turnaround. Their opponents saw little to celebrate.
“February saw some modest growth in jobs across the province, but since September 2011 we’re still down nearly 30,000 jobs in the private sector,” said NDP finance critic Bruce Ralston. That represents the worst private-sector job performance in the country. Overall B.C. is third worst among provinces in job creation, he said.
Peter Sharp, B.C. Conservative candidate, said the Stats Can survey doesn’t jibe with B.C.’s own labour force data.
“I really don’t see anything in the most recent information that should give the B.C. Liberals anything to take credit for,” Sharp said.
B.C.’s 10-year unemployment average is 6.4 per cent, lower than where it the rate currently stands, he noted.
B.C. labour market stats indicated that unemployment in the Thompson-Okanagan dropped to 6.5 per cent from 7.1 per cent between January 2012 and January 2013. Unemployment was also shown to have fallen, but this was partly due to a seasonal contraction in the labour market.
Bell acknowledged that, while making some gains, the province has not yet fully rebounded.
“Overall, provincewide, we’re expecting to see job growth in the coming months,” he added.