According to statistics released Wednesday by Statscan, the number of people claiming unemployment benefits in the Abbotsford–Mission CMA dropped by 2.7% in February. Abbotsford-Mission was one of two of the four metropolitan areas in British Columbia with fewer beneficiaries (Vancouver dropped by 3.0%). This was in contrast, to areas in BC outside of the province’s metropolitan areas which saw increases.
Is this good news?
That isn’t an easy call to make.
A drop in beneficiaries claiming benefits could be the result of a larger number of people finding work (reflected in the unemployment rate) or a large number of people giving up their job search and no longer claiming benefits (reflected in the poarticipation rate).
The local unemployment rate is slightly higher than the overall unemployment rate for the country (6.8) but remains, far and above, the highest in Western Canada.
The local participation rate of 6.6 percent in March, is up marginally from February’s 6.5 percent. How does that compare to other Western Canadian cities?
Abbotsford-Mission’s participation, while it is higher than other CMAs in BC, is quite a bit lower than other Western Canadian cities.
Comparative Participation Rates:
Jobs … Quantity vs Quality
Abbotsford’s abysmal rate of economic growth during the last decade or more has had a deep impact on the job market. Even though the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce likes to define itself, and explains its constant demands for lower business taxes, by calling its members job creators, the claims appear to be baseless.
From 2008 to 2015 there has been zero overall growth in the job market in Abbotsford (as revealed by the Abbotsford News graphic below.) Furthermore; the jobs available in Abbotsford and Mission have tended to be minimum-wage, part-time, service sector or warehousing jobs which do not allow for individuals or families to invest in housing.
Abbotsford’s housing market has been virtually asleep since the brief condo boom of the last decade and residential building permits and housing starts have been among the lowest in Western Canada and declining.
The local economic indicators cannot be viewed in isolation. Nor can brief rises or falls be used to indicate anything meaningful. Only a sustained look at all of the statistics which developers, builders and investors use to judge a community’s economic prospects can provide any sort of useful gauge of a community’s economic health.
When examining economic indicators, context is crucial since investors and real job creators don’t base their decisions on press releases, brochures or speeches aimed at a local audience. They look at the facts.
The National Picture
The number of people receiving regular Employment Insurance benefits rose by 2.0% (+9,900) to 509,800 in February, following five months of little change. Compared with 12 months earlier, the number of beneficiaries was down slightly (-0.7% or -3,500).
In February, the number of beneficiaries rose notably in several provinces compared with a month earlier, with Alberta experiencing the largest increase (+15.6%), followed by Saskatchewan (+4.9%) and Prince Edward Island (+3.7%).
The change in the number of regular EI beneficiaries reflects various situations, including people becoming beneficiaries, people going back to work and people no longer receiving regular benefits.
Number of regular Employment Insurance beneficiaries
Provincial and metropolitan area overview
In Alberta, the number of people receiving benefits rose a substantial 15.6% in February to 36,000. This was the fourth consecutive monthly increase for the province and the largest since May 2009. The largest increases for the province were among beneficiaries who last worked in occupations unique to primary industry (+51.8%); processing, manufacturing and utilities (+29.1%); natural and applied sciences (+28.8%); as well as management (+14.3%).
There was a marked 24.2% increase in Alberta’s census agglomerations (CAs) and in areas outside census metropolitan areas (CMAs) and CAs (+21.9%). At the same time, the CMAs of Edmonton (+12.3%) and Calgary (+11.8%) also had more beneficiaries in February. See “geographical definitions” in the note to readers.
In Saskatchewan, the number of people receiving regular EI benefits rose by 4.9% to 11,600 in February, the third consecutive monthly increase. The province had a marked 19.2% increase in the number of beneficiaries who last worked in occupations unique to primary industry. There was a notable increase in the province’s CAs (+15.0%), while the CMA of Regina was up 2.8%.
Compared with January, the number of beneficiaries in Prince Edward Island rose by 3.7% to 7,500 in February, the third consecutive monthly increase. There were more beneficiaries in the CAs (+3.7%) and in the outlying areas (+3.5%) of the province.
In Quebec, the number of beneficiaries rose by 2.5% to 154,300. There were increases in all six metropolitan areas, ranging from 6.0% in Sherbrooke to 1.9% in Montréal. The number of beneficiaries also rose in the province’s CAs (+3.4%) and outside of the CMAs and CAs (+2.4%).
Between January and February, the number of people receiving benefits in Newfoundland and Labrador rose by 2.3% to 31,800, continuing an upward trend that began last November. In February, there was a notable increase in the metropolitan area of St. John’s (+5.3%). For the CAs within the province, the number of beneficiaries rose by 3.5%.
In Nova Scotia, there were 27,200 people receiving regular EI benefits in February, up 2.2% from January and the third consecutive monthly increase. While the number of beneficiaries was virtually unchanged in Halifax, regions outside of the CAs posted a 3.1% increase in February.
In New Brunswick, the number of people receiving benefits edged up 1.1% to 32,200, continuing a gradual upward trend that began last fall. In February, Moncton posted a 3.8% increase, partly offsetting a decline in January.
In Manitoba, the number of beneficiaries edged up 1.0% in February to 13,500. There were more people receiving benefits in the province’s CAs (+4.6%), while there was little change elsewhere in the province.
While Ontario and British Columbia had little change in the number of beneficiaries between January and February, this was not the case in some areas within these provinces.
Of the 15 metropolitan areas in Ontario, 4 had more beneficiaries in February, most notably Windsor, (+14.4%). At the same time, there were declines in a number of metropolitan areas, especially Oshawa (-8.3%), Hamilton (-3.9%), Guelph (-3.3%) and St. Catharines–Niagara (-3.2%).
In February, two of the four metropolitan areas in British Columbia had fewer beneficiaries: Vancouver (-3.0%) and Abbotsford–Mission (-2.7%). In contrast, there were increases in the CAs (+1.5%) and in areas outside of the province’s CMAs and CAs (+1.3%).
Regular Employment Insurance beneficiaries by occupation
Compared with February 2014, the number of EI beneficiaries edged down 0.7% (-3,500).
Looking at EI recipients’ last occupation, there were large decreases in the number of beneficiaries in several major occupation groups such as art, culture, recreation and sport occupations (-7.5%) and health (-4.2%) compared with the same month a year ago. In contrast, there were more people receiving benefits in trades, transport and equipment operators (+2.8%), as well as social science, education, government service and religion (+2.6%). At the same time, there was virtually no change in natural and applied sciences and in occupations unique to primary industry.
Regular Employment Insurance beneficiaries by occupation, percentage change, February 2014 to February 2015
Employment Insurance beneficiaries in major demographic groups
Compared with January, the number of beneficiaries increased 4.0% in February among men aged 15 to 24, while there was little change for women in the same age group.
Among men aged 25 to 54, the number of beneficiaries rose 2.4%, the third consecutive monthly increase, while there was a slight increase (+1.4%) among women in the same age group.
The number of beneficiaries rose slightly in February for men aged 55 and older (+1.7%) and for women in the same age group (+1.2%).
On a year-over-year basis, the fastest rate of decline was among women aged 15 to 24 (-5.1%) and women aged 25 to 54 (-3.7%). There was little change for men in the same age groups.
The number of men aged 55 and older receiving benefits increased by 2.7% compared with 12 months earlier, and rose by 2.2% for women in the same age group.
Employment Insurance claims
Nationally, the number of EI claims increased 6.7% in February compared with January. The number of claims provides an indication of the number of people who could become beneficiaries.
Every province had more claims in February, led by Alberta, where there was a marked 29.4% increase. This was the second consecutive month with an increase over 20% for the province and the largest since February 2009. There were also notable increases in February for Prince Edward Island (+11.9%), Manitoba (+6.3%), Ontario (+5.8%), British Columbia (+4.1%) and Saskatchewan (+3.9%). Smaller increases were posted in the other four provinces.