KELOWNA – Recent hiring fairs in the Okanagan have been overwhelmed with applicants and now a BMO report card has ranked Kelowna’s labour market as the second worst in the country. Many believe the region is feeling the effects of layoffs in Alberta.
A long line-up of job seekers formed in Vernon this weekend as hundreds vied for 50 jobs with Canadian Tire. It was a similar scene in Kelowna last November when Suncor held a hiring fair.
Now there is more bad news for Okanagan residents looking for work. A year ago unemployment in Kelowna was sitting at 3 per cent. It’s now jumped to 7.6 per cent. That was one of the stats BMO took into account in a report card that rated Kelowna’s labour market as the second-worst in the country.
The economist who wrote the report believes layoffs among Okanagan residents commuting to Alberta are playing a role and may even be making the situation look worse on paper than it is in reality.
“The fact that employment is down more than 2 per cent in the last year, I think part of that reflects some of those job losses that are actually taking place in Alberta,” says senior economist Robert Kavcic.
“It is exaggerating the weakness quite a bit, I think.”
Kelowna’ mayor says it is too soon to sound the alarm.
“It is just a one-month snapshot. Let’s take a look at what the next three months look like and if the numbers are still trending in the same way, then I would say we have a trend,” says Colin Basran.
Basran says there are other signs like the growth of knowledge-based industries and the city’s development statistics that suggest the city’s economy is actually heading in a positive direction.