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Kelowna  

Job survey not surprising

Kelowna's mayor was not entirely surprised by the news jobs are hard to come by in Kelowna, but he was shocked at the damning numbers.

Kelowna fell 31 spots in BMO’s February labour market report card — landing in spot 32 out of 33 spots.

According to this report, Kelowna has dropped from one of the best cities in the country to find a job, to second worst.

Mayor Colin Basran says he is well aware job prospects have been an issue in the region for many years, but he thought the influx of work in the tech and health industry would have done more to combat the poor numbers

“This has historically always been an issue in Kelowna,” says Basran. “But, I was surprised because our economy is more diversified than it has ever been.

"When you factor in the growth of our tech and innovation sector which is now a $1-billion industry and growing, when you factor in continued expansion of our hospital, when you factor in expansion of our knowledge-based economy through continued growth at UBC Okanagan, Okanagan College.

“When you factor in that 2015 was a great year for development and development permits in our city, one of the best years we've had in recent memory. It was a little bit surprising.”

He feels the report's indication that Kelowna has recently seen a big drop in employment may also be reflected in the tide of workers who live in Kelowna, had worked in Alberta, and are now searching for work at home following massive rig layoffs.

“In the Central Okanagan, we have approximately 5,000 people that work in Alberta,” says Basran. “Some of those people have now lost their jobs and because they have a primary residence here in Kelowna they count towards the Kelowna statistics.”

His other concern was that the report is only showing a small snippet and not the bigger picture.

“A one-month snapshot is a bit misleading when you consider all the other positive trends we have seen in our community,” says Basran.

“It is comparing one month in 2015 to one month in 2016 and so, while it has our attention, what we want to see is whether this is a trend over the next three to six months. To really see if this is a major problem.”

Among the dozens of comments Castanet's original article received on Facebook a common theme was that while most believe jobs are lacking in the area, they also feel the ones that do exist don't pay the bills.

“That is nothing new,” says Basran. “But, with the economy diversifying it is creating more opportunity, we are heading in the right direction though.”

He says the city is also taking steps to ensure it is more affordable for those who cannot find high-paying work in the region.

“We are always trying to find ways to create more affordable housing, for ownership and for rental,” says Basran. “We work with the development community to make it happen.”

The Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission warns readers not to take the survey results too literally.

Director Corie Griffiths says the sample size was small, and the time period it used (January 2015 versus January 2016) is not representative of a trend.

“That said, it is the only number that we have got,” says Griffiths who says the EDC chooses to compare the numbers year over year not month versus month.

“If you look at the data over the last 12 months we are averaging at just over five per cent unemployment, not 7.6 per cent, so it is an extremely volatile sample,” says Griffiths.

She says the BMO survey is a rough snapshot and has a sample size of approximately just 100 local households.

While she says the EDC is closely monitoring the unemployment numbers, the other numbers they monitor are nothing but positive.

“Building permit values are up 35 per cent, business licences are up seven per cent, consumer bankruptcies are down over 8.6 per cent. We will keep an eye on the number, but we are not concerned yet.”

To help employers and employees find one another, the EDC has also just launched a job matching platform.

Check out what the people of Kelowna had to say about job prospects in the city.

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