The number of residents in Greater Victoria receiving Employment Insurance (EI) has risen year-to-year, yet local unemployment remains among the lowest, if not the lowest, in Canada.
Statistics Canada shows 2,140 residents in the Victoria Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) received EI in November 2019, up from 1,980 in November 2018, a rise of 8.1 per cent. But if the percentage change appears significant, it is likely because of the relatively low absolute number. It is also important to note that Greater Victoria recorded the lowest employment rate in all of Canada in December 2019 with a rate of 3.4 per cent — down from 3.5 in November 2019. Year-to-year, the regional unemployment rate unchanged.
Victoria’s increase reflects a provincial increase of 4.2 per cent in the number of beneficiaries on a year-over-year basis with the regions outside major cities accounting for the most of the increase.
Whereas the number of EI recipients dropped by 0.2 per cent year-over-year in the four CMAs of British Columbia (Victoria, Vancouver, Abbotsford-Mission and Kelowna), the number of recipients rose 8.8 per cent in B.C.’s Census Agglomerations (CA) — secondary cities such as Nanaimo and Kamloops — and areas outside CMAs and CAs (rural areas).
These figures capture a development evident across rural B.C., especially the Cariboo and the Peace River regions, two historic hubs of the provincial resource industry, which have been losing thousands of jobs with forestry and mining in decline.
On a year-over-year basis, the number of EI beneficiaries increased in five of the 10 broad occupational groups, led by those who last worked in manufacturing and utilities (up 12.5 per cent), natural resources, agriculture and related production (up 4.9 per cent) and education, law and social, community and government services (up four per cent).
At the same time, fewer recipients were recorded among those whose last job was in art, culture, recreation and sport (down 10.6 per cent) and in health occupations (8.8 per cent).
Broadly speaking, the new figures confirm the dual, some might say bi-polar nature of the provincial economy. The urban centres with their diverse, service, culture and information-based economies are doing well, while regions reliant on single, carbon-intensive industries are struggling.
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