Job creation provides a good indication of a region's economic health and labour market trends. In 2012, employment in the TODR increased slightly (2,000 new jobs), recovering the majority of 2011's job losses (-2,500 jobs). However, the region's job growth rate last year (0.8%) trailed all other Development Regions save the Vancouver Island/Coast (0.7%) and Nechako (-9.2%). This rate was also well below the provincial average growth rate of 1.7%.
Table 1-1: Employment, Thompson-Okanagan Development Region, 2007 to 2012
The service sector was entirely responsible for the TODR's employment growth last year, adding 4,900 jobs, which more than made up for 2,900 jobs lost in goods production. All service industries except for trade, other services, and public administration posted job increases. The largest gains were in finance, insurance, real estate and leasing (2,400 new jobs), and professional, scientific and technical services (2,100 new jobs). Most of these new jobs were in real estate (1,600 new jobs), likely as a result of renewed sales activity, and computer design (1,000 new jobs), for which there continues to be a growing demand.
The third significant area of employment growth last year was in education; more specifically, post-secondary and other educational services (2,600 new jobs), as jobs in primary and secondary education (-900 jobs) both decreased last year. This growth is not surprising given the ongoing expansion of UBC Okanagan and Thompson Rivers University. Smaller job gains in transportation and warehousing (500 new jobs), business, building and other support services (900 new jobs), information, culture and recreation (900 new jobs), and accommodation and food services (800 new jobs) were a result of the pick-up in the local economy.
Job losses in trade (-3,200 jobs) primarily occurred at the retail level, while those in other services (-1,600 jobs) were mostly in repair and maintenance. These losses suggest a lag in renewed demand for these services. Reduced employment in public administration (-1,800 jobs) occurred in the federal and regional government, a likely reflection of on-going fiscal restraint.
Goods sector employment declined by 2,900 jobs last year, primarily because of jobs losses in manufacturing (-3,600 jobs), a figure that could not be offset by gains in mining (1,100 new jobs), forestry (900 new jobs), and construction (100 new jobs). Renewed US and growing Asian demand for lumber and pulp, as well as expanded operations at Highland Valley, Copper Mountain, and Max Molybdenum drove job gains in forestry, wood manufacturing, and mining. Non-durable manufacturing (-4,500 jobs), in particular food and beverage, was the hardest hit industry in the TODR. This is not surprising given the recent decline in grape and apple harvests, as well as wine production. These job losses eclipsed job gains in fabricated metals (1,600 new jobs) and wood products (500 new jobs).
The unemployment rate is another important measure of regional economic health as it reveals the balance between job supply and the available labour force. In 2012, the unemployment rate in the TODR peaked in March at 9.5%, then fell to a low of 4.7% in August, before increasing to 5.7% in November and December. This resulted in an annual average of 6.9%, which ranked fourth behind the Northeast (4.1%), Vancouver Island/Coast (6%), and Mainland/Southwest (6.8%). Compared to 2011, this represented a 1 percentage point (ppt) reduction and was the second-largest decrease after the Vancouver Island/Coast (-1.7 ppt) last year. Within the TODR, unemployment was lowest in Kelowna (6.8%) and higher in both Kamloops (7.2%) and Vernon (8.8%).
Table 1-2: Unemployment Rate, Thompson-Okanagan Development Region, 2007 to 2012
Although job creation largely deserves the credit for this improvement, the TODR's labour force also contracted slightly (-700 persons) last year. This decrease was most likely a result of people of working age moving either elsewhere in the province, or out-of-province in search of job opportunities.
Youth unemployment in the TODR also declined last year by 1.3 ppt, falling to 11%. The region's rate tied the Mainland/Southwest in fourth place after the Northeast (7.3%), Vancouver Island/Coast (10.2%), and Kootenay (10.4%). Last year's reduction in youth unemployment was the second-highest after the Vancouver Island/Coast (-2.4 ppt). The TODR was also one of only three Development Regions to lower youth unemployment; the third being the Mainland/Southwest (-0.5 ppt). This accomplishment is even more impressive given that the youth labour force increased by 8.7% last year, whereas in the Mainland/Southwest it grew by only 4.7% and in Vancouver Island/Coast it declined by 13%. All of which suggests that many of the jobs created last year may have been either entry level or low skill.
Table 1-3: Youth (age 19 to 24 years) Unemployment Rate, Thompson-Okanagan Development Region, 2007 to 2012