|Okanagan Saturday file photo|
Workers pour a concrete sidewalk as part of the Bernard Avenue revitalization project. Local jobless numbers were higher than expected, with 7.8 per cent of people looking for work in November, up from six per cent the previous month, according to Statistics Canada.
Speaking to a lunchtime gathering of the Kelowna Chamber in Commerce, Thomson referred in passing to the local
jobless rise as reflecting "seasonal adjustments" in the workforce.
"To date, our jobs plan is working in British Columbia," Thomson said, referring to a net increase of 50,000 jobs since the program was launched in 2011.
Much of the increase, he said, had been in the key forestry sector, triggered largely by a dramatic rise in the value of wood exports to Asia. In 2003, Thomson said, B.C.'s forestry-related exports to China totalled just $63 million, but that number has risen to $1.1 billion this year.
"We can replicate that effort in many other sectors," Thomson said.
He added deepening B.C.'s trade links to China, India and other Asian countries is important because those countries have a rapidly growing middle class.
After the chamber meeting, Thomson told a reporter he shared some of the surprise expressed earlier Friday by Jobs Minister Pat Ball over the rise in Kelowna's unemployment rate.
Bell had said ministry staff weren't aware of any business shutdowns or large-scale layoffs that would explain the rise in the jobless numbers. Thomson suggested the increase could be due to seasonal layoffs in the tourism industry, and the continuing slow pace of construction activity.
"The numbers do fluctuate, but what's important is the long-term trend," Thomson said.
The rise in Kelowna's jobless rate was in contrast to the national picture. The economy showed a surprising bounce last month, adding 59,300 jobs to drop the unemployment rate two-tenths of a point, to 7.2 per cent.
It was the strongest jobs report of the year, not only in terms of job creation, but also in the type of jobs - almost all the gains were in full-time employment and in the private sector.
Prior to the early morning release, markets and economists had looked for modest gains of about 10,000 workers, in line with a weak summer that produced the worst quarter in over a year, with an anemic 0.6 per cent advance during the July-September period.
"The bottom line is the Canadian economy is not quite as weak as some ofthe recent indicators had suggested. It's very encouraging," said Doug Porter, deputy chief economist with the Bank of Montreal.
"On a stand-alone basis, this was one of the best job gains we've seen in the year and the unemployment rate has matched its cycle low. Even in the structure of the jobs, they're mostly full-time, they're mostly in the private sector."
Earlier in the week, Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney characterized the third quarter hiccup in Canada as temporary and said he was looking for the economy to pick up steam in 2013. Still, analysts are not looking for a strong final stretch this year.
The jobs performance, however, provides some cover for Carney's decision on Tuesday to retain his mild tightening bias, which basically tells markets the next policy move, when it comes, will likely result in a hike in interest rates.
With November's pick-up, employment gains have reached 294,000 over the past 12 months, a relatively healthy outcome. If there were weaknesses in Friday's numbers, it was that the service sector was responsible for all the gains, with the relatively low-paying hotel and restaurant industries leading the way with a 28,000 increase.
The more desirable goods producing sector actually saw employment decline by about 6,000. As well, Statistics Canada said average wage gains fell to 2.2 per cent annualized in November, from 3.7 per cent in October, a plunge that leftanalysts scratching their heads.
By industry, employment rose about 28,000 in the accommodation and food services industries, while retail and wholesale trade increased by about 25,000, and professional, scientific and technical services picked added 23,000 jobs.
Manufacturing had another bad month, shedding 20,000 workers and construction dropped 8,400. There were also 15,000 fewer workers in the "other services" category.
Regionally, Ontario saw the most improvement, with a pick-up of 32,000 jobs, dropping the province's unemployment rate 0.4 points to 7.9. There were small overall employment reversals in British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan.
- with files from The Canadian Press