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Record immigration no cure-all for B.C.’s labour woes

October 25, 2022

By Business in Vancouver |

There’s a very basic math problem facing B.C.’s labour force, according to Ken Peacock:

“Even if everybody in the ranks of the unemployed was totally employable and could start a job tomorrow, there wouldn’t be enough people physically in the province to fill all the job vacancies,” said the chief economist at the Business Council of B.C. (BCBC).

His industry association estimates there are between 150,000 and 160,000 job openings in B.C.

Unemployed workers who compose the core working age group – men and women 25-54 years old – amount to 80,000 on the West Coast. And those on the periphery of the core working age don’t come anywhere close to bridging that gap between those 80,000 workers and the 160,000 job openings, Peacock said.

“It does keep me up at night,” B.C. Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon said about the disparity between job openings and available workers in a province where the unemployment rate stood at 4.3 per cent in September.

His government’s most recent labour market outlook, released this past February, forecasts just over one million job openings in the province over the next decade.

“The question is, where are the people going to come from?” Kahlon said.

Despite record inflows of immigration during the pandemic, the number of newcomers arriving in B.C. may not be enough to meet labour market demand.

More than 269,000 immigrants arrived in the country during 2022’s second quarter – the largest number on record, according to Statistics Canada.

Rather than bringing in 411,000 newcomers this year, as outlined in plans announced in October 2020, the feds revealed in February they were upping that target and aiming to bring in 432,000 immigrants by the end of 2022. Ottawa ultimately hopes to attract 1.3 million immigrants from 2021-23.

“Even ramping up immigrants very dramatically as the federal government has done is probably not going to provide enough immigrant workers to fill these openings,” said Peacock.

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