Statistics Canada data reveals that BC’s labour market stalled in 2013, despite the much-hyped BC Jobs Plan launched over two years ago. A new report looks at how and why the plan is failing, and calls for a more diversified and sustainable approach to job creation.
“The jobs recovery after the 2008-09 recession has been weak across Canada, but BC’s is even weaker, and the Jobs Plan hasn’t helped,” says economist and report author Iglika Ivanova. “In fact, we were third to last in terms of job creation in 2013, actually losing jobs while most other provinces saw job growth.”
BC Jobs Plan Reality Check, released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives,examines a number of indicators of labour market performance and compares the pace of recovery in the two years since the Jobs Plan was announced with the two years of recovery that preceded it. Key findings include:
• Two thirds of jobs created since the Jobs Plan are seasonal or casual positions. BC has fewer permanent jobs today than before the recession.
• Only 71% of working-age British Columbians have jobs today, effectively unchanged since the start of the BC Jobs Plan and barely improved since the low point of the recession.
• BC needs 94,000 more jobs just to return to the province’s pre-recession employ¬ment rate (the proportion of working age British Columbians who have jobs). That’s equivalent to the number of jobs created in 2010, 2011 and 2012 combined.
• Temporary foreign workers have filled almost a third of the new jobs created since the recession. The increase in temporary foreign work¬ers has been concentrated in areas outside urban centres.
• Many rural areas have not seen job growth since the Jobs Plan. Outside the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island, only the Kootenay and Northeast regions have experienced net job creation since the Jobs Plan was launched. Despite the resource focus of the plan, which was supposed to breathe life into rural areas, Thompson-Okanagan, the Cariboo, and the North Coast and Nechako have fewer jobs than before the plan, and have yet to recover the jobs lost during the recession.
“The BC Jobs Plan is based on the false assumption that the private sector is the only job creator,” says Ivanova, “and it pins all its hopes on resource exports, particularly liquefied natural gas (LNG).” However, the evidence is that this approach is failing to deliver:
• The private sector actually lost 12,000 jobs in the first ten months of 2013 (the latest data available at the time of writing). This is extremely rare outside of a recession. In the last 40 years, it has happened only once, in 2001, and many fewer jobs were cut then (2,700).
• Just 2% of British Columbians are directly employed in mining, oil and gas extraction and forestry and logging combined. This sector remains such a small share of the job market that even a doubling or tripling of employment would not make it a major employer in BC.
The study recommends shifting BC’s approach to job creation to a more diversified, less environmentally and economically risky strategy, which would include public investment in infrastructure and social programs to create spinoff hiring and investment by the private sector.