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B.C. adds 4,200 jobs in January as Omicron wallops Central Canada

British Columbia's unemployment rate falls to 5.1%
Retail
B.C.'s retail sector added 6,800 jobs between December and January, according to Statistics Canada

The West Coast managed to avoid serious job losses last month even as the highly contagious COVID-19 Omicron variant made its way through Canada and brought on additional restrictions.

B.C. added 4,200 jobs in January at the same time the country as a whole posted a loss of 200,000 jobs, according to Statistics Canada data released on Friday.

“The Omicron wave and associated lockdowns forced many businesses to adjust on the fly. They did this by cutting jobs and hours significantly,” TD senior economist James Orlando said in a note, referring to the national numbers.

“Notably, all of the increase in unemployment was due to more people on temporary lay-off or scheduled to start a job in the near future, suggesting the setback will be short lived.”

The province’s unemployment fell 0.3 percentage points between December and January to land at 5.1%, while Canada saw its unemployment rate increase 0.5 percentage points to 6%.

B.C.’s biggest gains came in retail/wholesale trade (+6,800 jobs); natural resources (+3,800 jobs); and finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing (+3,900 jobs).

The biggest losses came in agriculture (-3,700 jobs); business, building and other support services (-5,500 jobs); and construction (-2,000 jobs).

Ontario (-145,700 jobs) and Quebec (-63,000 jobs), the country’s two most populace provinces, were home to the vast majority of Canada’s losses last month.

Those provinces have also imposed tighter restrictions amid the pandemic compared with B.C.

“The reality is that no one will be seriously surprised by these figures, since it is almost a carbon copy of the setbacks seen in the second and third waves," BMO chief economist Douglas Porter said in a note.

“As the restrictions have begun to ease in recent days in Ontario and Quebec, look for a sturdy rebound in jobs in the next two months.”

Statistics Canada data was collected only through the first half of January, leaving question marks hanging over the full extent the Omicron wave has had on the West Coast economy last month.

torton@biv.com

@reporton

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