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CPABC: Southwest B.C. labour market tightening as COVID-19 restrictions lift

·3-min read

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Oct. 27, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- According to the BC Check-Up: Work, an annual report by the Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia (CPABC) on employment trends across the province, Southwest B.C.’s unemployment rate fell to 7.0 per cent in September 2021, down from 10.9 per cent in September 2020.

“With a rebounding economy, businesses across Southwest B.C. have been rapidly expanding their workforce,” said Lori Mathison, FCPA, FCGA, LLB, president and CEO of CPABC. “That being said, the region is experiencing an uneasy dichotomy – with a large number of residents who are actively seeking but unable to secure work, together with a large number of employers who are unable to hire appropriately skilled employees.”

As of September 2021, total employment in the region reached 1.73 million, a 10.9 per cent increase compared to September 2020. In fact, Southwest B.C.’s employment exceeded pre-pandemic levels, up 24,700 positions compared to September 2019. However, that lagged significantly behind the working age population growth of 62,700 over the same period.

As a result, Southwest B.C.’s unemployment remains well above the 4.9 per cent set in September 2019. In total, there were nearly 130,000 unemployed residents in September 2021 compared to about 88,000 in September 2019.

“As business restrictions eased and local consumer demand picked up, the employment gains were led by the service sector,” continued Mathison. “However, the labour situation varies largely by subsector and some industries continue to struggle. Another concern is that full-time positions still remain below pre-pandemic levels.”

The service sector workforce increased by 169,500 positions over the past year, buoyed by large gains in wholesale and retail trade, health care, and professional services. Employment in the hospitality industry declined by 7.2 per cent over the past year, the only service industry to experience a decline. Goods sector employment was down by 0.1 per cent, with gains in natural resources and manufacturing offset by a decline in construction employment.

While full-time positions were up 10.1 per cent over the previous year, they remain slightly lower than in September 2019. In contrast, the number of part-time positions has increased by 13.9 per cent over the previous year and by 8.3 per cent since September 2019.

“Southwest B.C’s economy has been able to recoup many of the job losses experienced in 2020, but those previously employed in hard hit sectors continue to struggle,” concluded Mathison. “Further, businesses have faced a growing challenge to find the right-skilled workers. As we continue our recovery, it is critical to consider ways to bridge this gap such as through access to childcare and skills training, particularly in industries facing the greatest labour shortages.”

Southwest B.C.




Unemployment rate (%)




Employment (1,000s)




Full-time (1,000s)




Part-time (1,000s)




Participation rate (%)




To learn more, see Data is from Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey, follows a moving three-month average and is not seasonally adjusted.

About CPA British Columbia
The Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia (CPABC) is the training, governing, and regulatory body for over 38,000 CPA members and 6,000 CPA students. CPABC carries out its primary mission to protect the public by enforcing the highest professional and ethical standards and contributing to the advancement of public policy. CPAs are recognized internationally for bringing superior financial expertise, strategic thinking, business insight, and leadership to organizations.

CONTACT: For more information: Vivian Tse, Manager, Communications 604.488.2647

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