Editorial: B.C.’s job market: not so rosy

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What do job statistics even mean? They can be good at capturing general career trends, but it’s hard to get a detailed story about what’s happening with certain careers. Job seekers in B.C. can quickly get a good overview of their chosen industry via the government website bcjobtrendtracker.ca. Once they type a job into the search feature (provided it fits into one of the job categories on the list), they can see a range of employment stats that includes job openings, worker demand, workers versus jobs ratio and rates of employment (and unemployment).

And what do the job trends usually say? Well, the most obvious thing influencing the stats is the fact that the lower mainland has most of B.C.’s population. So naturally most jobs will be there. The only time this rule doesn’t hold true is with certain resource-specific industries; many of these can be found in the more remote areas of the province. And some careers, like videographer, didn’t even turn up in the search results (“video” didn’t seem to yield any results, either).

So, if there’s anything to be learned from the B.C. job trend tracker site, it’s to think beyond the general statistics of a chosen field and really get to know an industry in-depth before or when looking for work. 

Speaking of statistics, the B.C. government recently announced that since its Jobs Plan began one year ago, we have become the leader in job creation in Canada. Between August 2011 and August 2012, the province saw 51 700 jobs created. The unemployment rate in the province also dropped to 6.7 per cent, which is below the national average of 7.3 per cent. But it’s hard to say, according to some economists, whether these numbers can be directly attributed to the Jobs Plan. It is unclear whether these improvements were caused by the efforts of the B.C. government, or just the gradual global economic recovery that has been happening for the past year (and many people are thinking it’s the latter). 

According to an August B.C. Stats report, the unemployment rates for B.C. have decreased, but this is largely amongst 45- to 64-year-olds in the past year.  This age group saw their unemployment rate drop from 5.3 and 7.7 per cent (men and women respectively) from August 2011 to 5.0 and 6.2 per cent in August 2012. For students in the 15- to 24-year-old year category, unemployment moved from 17.6 and 13.9 per cent (men and women respectively) to 12.1 and 10.6 per cent. Sounds good, right? Not really. According to the report summary, “this decline . . . was caused by a considerable number of youth leaving B.C.’s labour market (−13 600) combined with small employment gains (+4 500).” The report goes on to note that this includes a 5.6 per cent drop in part-time work (which students are more likely to take) and a 2.5 per cent increase in full-time work (which the 45 to 64 year category is likely to take).

Christy Clark has made it clear that one of her main goals as premier is to create more jobs, primarily through the natural resource sectors. But if you’re not looking to work in these sectors, the sure-fire way to know if there are opportunities within a certain field is to step into it. If it’s something you’re interested in, the effort required to job search and draft several cover letters could be worth it. Even if the job trend tracker says your field is not looking so good, the doors of opportunity might still be open to you. No one can accurately say you don’t have what it takes. We can’t individually change job trends, but we can control what we bring to the table as potential employees.

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