British Columbians have one more thing to be thankful for this holiday. September employment figures for British Columbia are in and the news is good. BC employment increased in September by 31,000 jobs with the unemployment rate dropping 0.3 percent to 8.4 percent. This is the first monthly decline in unemployment since the collapse of the global economy last fall.
Manufacturing businesses hired 5,900 people and the construction industry, especially hard hit by the recession, created 4,000 new jobs.
Northwest states, however, continue to struggle with employment. Our recent report on the economy shows that US states haven’t been able to demonstrate any job growth, which could be an indicator that even if recovery has begun, it could be a jobless one.
The most recent federal unemployment figures are a warning sign that conditions may worsen further. Mimicking national trends, each state in the Northwest saw an increase in its monthly unemployment rate—and the unemployment rate in Oregon is now the highest in the state’s history.
Nationally, the Department of Labor reported a couple of weeks ago that 263,000 jobs were lost in September driving the unemployment rate in the US to 9.8 percent.
You might think that unemployment rates in the United States and Canada would be more or less the same. And the rates do more or less follow the same trend line. But rates in Canada have been consistently higher.
An important study by Craig Riddell in the Department of Economics at the University of British Columbia found that the biggest part of this difference is in the methodology for counting the unemployed. Canada counts more passive efforts to find jobs like “looking at ads” while the counting system drops people out of the count that are no longer actively looking for work. Riddell found that adjusting for that lowers the Canadian unemployment rate by about .07 percent. Statistics Canada also issues an adjusted for this and other factors that it releases regularly that results in a similar .07 or .08 downward adjustment in the rate. The adjusted rates have not been issued by Statistics Canada yet for 2009.
Nevertheless, this is the first time since 1981 that the Canadian unemployment rate has dropped below the US rate. It is too early to tell whether the trend in Canada will continue or exactly what this means for our region. But early speculation is that the public sector is driving the latest jump in the employment figures. It is still unclear whether similar investment in the public sector in the US through the stimulus package will start showing a similar pattern of improvement.