By Iglika Ivanova
The much-hyped BC Jobs Plan is failing, and our province needs a new economic strategy, according to my latest report for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. BC Jobs Plan Reality Check, compares labour market performance since the Jobs Plan was announced in September 2011 with the two years of post-recession recovery that preceded it.
The jobs recovery has been disappointing across Canada, but British Columbia’s is even weaker. We are one of only three provinces that lost jobs in 2013.
The only reason the unemployment rate fell slightly last year is that many people gave up looking for work and they were no longer counted in the official statistics.
While the total number of jobs in B.C. has increased since the Jobs Plan was announced, the new jobs have been primarily temporary positions and have barely kept up with B.C.’s growing population. The proportion of working age British Columbians with jobs (the employment rate) is unchanged since the start of the Jobs Plan and remains almost as low as during the recession.
B.C. would need 94,000 more jobs to reach the pre-recession employment rate.
Outside of the Lower Mainland and Greater Victoria, only the Kootenay and Northeast have experienced net job creation since the Jobs Plan was launched.
Thompson-Okanagan, the Cariboo, and the North Coast and Nechako have fewer jobs than before the plan, and have yet to recover the jobs lost during the recession. Many of those regions are experiencing outmigration.
The Jobs Plan is narrowly focused on resource extraction (LNG and mining), but putting all our eggs in this basket is economically risky, making us more dependent on the booms and busts of global commodity markets. It also comes at a great environmental price.
Besides, the resource sector is not a big job creator. Just 2% of British Columbians are directly employed in mining, oil and gas extraction, forestry and logging combined. There will be few new jobs in the planned resource projects outside the construction stage, so any lift to local economies is going to be short-lived.
Furthermore, many of these new jobs could be filled with temporary foreign workers or skilled workers from other parts of Canada rather than by locals.
Almost one-third of new jobs created in B.C. since the recession have been filled by temporary foreign workers.
We need to shift to an economic strategy that is more diversified and less environmentally risky, and that puts more British Columbians to work in well-paying, family-supporting jobs.
B.C. has no forestry plan, no infrastructure plan, no climate action plan, no youth employment plan. Public investment in these strategic areas can create jobs and leverage spin-off hiring and investment by the private sector, while meeting pressing needs and setting the foundation for a more sustainable future for our province.
Iglika Ivanova is an economist and a public interest researcher with the Canadians Centre for Policy Alternatives.