B.C.’s ever-constricting labour market is showing few signs of easing anytime soon.
For each vacant job on the West Coast, the province had just 0.9 unemployed workers available to tap in the first quarter of 2022, according to data released Wednesday from Statistics Canada.
Only Quebec matches B.C. at that rate among the provinces, while Newfoundland and Labrador had 3.8 unemployed workers for every vacant job.
The West Coast faced 149,190 job vacancies during the first three months of the year – up nearly 50 per cent compared with the 100,365 vacancies in the same period in 2021. Canada, meanwhile, had a record 957,500 vacancies in the first quarter of 2022.
“What we're up against here, frankly, is a lack of people, a lack of bodies,” Ian Tostenson, president and CEO of the BC Restaurant & Foodservices Association (BCRFA), told BIV in mid-June, ahead of the data’s release.
“The government can and should be moving quickly to reduce the timeframe that it takes to get a skilled foreign worker into Canada.”
The province’s accommodation and food services sector had 25,000 vacancies in Q1 – the largest number among all sectors. That was followed by construction (17,940 vacancies), health care and social assistance (16,880), and retail (16,635).
“If we had domestic workers, that would be great. But we don’t, so we have to move to skilled workers immigration,” said Tostenson said, whose industry group is embarking on a campaign to recruit more young people into the restaurant industry via outreach to their parents as well as through social media.
The BCRFA is also calling on Ottawa and the B.C. government to implement an initiative similar to the Atlantic Immigration Program, which streamlines the entry of skilled foreign workers into those provinces to meet labour demand.
Jackie Ross, principal of Vancouver-based JRoss Recruiters Inc., said it’s time for the retail industry to boost hiring among older workers.
“They are often locked out of opportunities in our sector because of age discrimination and hiring biases,” Ross, who specializes in the retail and hospitality sectors, said in an email.
The latest StatsCan data also revealed B.C.’s job vacancy rate grew 1.6 percentage points to 6.1 per cent over the past year.