CPABC: Southwest B.C.’s goods-sector loses ground in 2023


VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Nov. 20, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — According to this year’s BC Check-Up: Work, an annual report by the Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia (CPABC) on employment trends, the unemployment rate in Southwest B.C., which includes the Lower Mainland, was 5.7 per cent in October 2023, up 1.2 percentage points from October 2022.

“The region’s workforce expanded over the last year, in line with the increase in the working age population,” noted Lori Mathison, FCPA, FCGA, LLB, president and CEO of CPABC. “That said, we’ve started to see the labour market cool over the last few months, and the region’s unemployment rate is now higher than it was before the pandemic.”

In October 2023, 1.83 million Southwest B.C. residents were employed, which was an increase of 2.9 per cent year-over-year. The increase came entirely from the services sector, which grew by 67,800 workers, or 4.6 per cent. Professional services, and finance, insurance and real estate services saw the largest expansions, adding 22,000 and 13,300 workers, respectively.


Conversely, employment in the goods sector fell by 5.6 per cent, with 17,100 fewer workers when compared to October 2022. The construction industry, which faced economic challenges due to higher interest rates, lost 10,200 workers, while the manufacturing industry also contracted by 9,300 people.

“Even though employment kept pace with population growth overall, it really has been a tale of two sectors,” added Mathison. The employment shifts we’ve seen over the past year are just an extension of the trend coming out of the pandemic, where employment growth in the region has been concentrated in services.”

Between October 2019 and October 2023, services-producing industries in Southwest B.C. collectively added 121,300 workers, an increase of 8.5 per cent. By stark contrast, employment in the goods-producing sector was virtually the same as it was four years ago.

“The region remains a popular destination for international migrants,” remarked Mathison. “While this is great news for the labour market overall, attracting skilled workers to industries that are still experiencing labour shortages is crucial for the health of the economy.”

CPABC also surveys its members to provide a pulse-check on challenges facing B.C. businesses. CPAs living in the Lower-Mainland identified housing affordability as the biggest obstacle to business success, followed by attracting and retaining skilled labour and labour compensation costs.

“Affordability and labour-related obstacles are still very much top of mind, and it’s critical that we prioritize policies that will help boost the housing supply and attract and retain skilled workers,” concluded Mathison.

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About CPA British Columbia

The Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia (CPABC) is the training, governing, and regulatory body for over 39,000 CPA members and 6,000 CPA candidates and 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.

CONTACT: CPABC Media Contact: Jack Blackwell, Economist 604.259.1143 [email protected] 

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