Metro Vancouver employment levels pull off strong recovery

Mar 4 2022, 10:51 pm

In absolute terms, Metro Vancouver’s employment levels have fully recovered to pre-pandemic levels as of the end of 2021.

The Vancouver Economic Commission’s (VEC) newly released spring 2022 report on the state of the local economy breaks down the latest labour market recovery data from Statistics Canada. Amongst the four largest urban regions in the country, Vancouver had the lowest unemployment rate for most of the previous year.

Female employment in the region has fully recovered as of June 2021 and is now above pre-pandemic levels.

While recovery has been in absolute terms, it has of course not been even across industries and sectors.

The tourism and hospitality industries are amongst the last sectors to begin the journey of recovery and were the hardest hit by the pandemic. The number of businesses in this industry fell by 1,364 to a low of 5,406 in May 2020, and while there has been a recovery trend since summer 2020, the industry is still over 100 businesses and many jobs from pre-pandemic levels.

As expected, young people between the ages of 15 and 24 suffered the most from the pandemic’s initial labour market shock, but the job recovery for this group exceeded pre-pandemic levels as of September 2021. But this group, which is amongst the tourism and hospitality industry’s largest employers, was later hit again in Fall 2021.

The report also highlighted local venture capital growth, with British Columbia receiving 20% ($2.3 billion) of the total $11.8 billion in investment across Canada over the first three quarters of 2021. In fact, Metro Vancouver alone saw 55 venture capital deals worth a combined total of $1.73 billion, with the largest deal secured by local blockchain company Dapper Labs ($319 million).

The local tech industry’s expansion continues to drive relatively strong office space market demand, with downtown Vancouver retaining its title as North America’s tightest office market. According to CBRE, the downtown office vacancy at the end of 2021 was 7.2% — declining for the first time since the pandemic began. Two-thirds of the 2.9 million sq ft of office space under construction in downtown is already pre-leased.

As well, industrial space availability was at a record low of 0.9% vacancy in late 2021, with the demand-to-supply imbalance propelling lease rates. Even though 1.2 million sq ft of space became available at the end of last year, strong levels of pre-leasing persist due to strong economic growth.

VEC also profiled Metro Vancouver’s apparel industry, which has now grown to over 375 gear and apparel firms, including Arcteryx, MEC, Lululemon, Aritzia, Mustang Survival, Herschel Supply, Oak + Fort, Kit and Ace, Indochino, Fluevog, Native Shoes, Aisle, Tentree, Vessi, and FitMyFoot.

The apparel sector is now BC’s fourth largest manufacturing sector, employs over 9,000 people, and generates $5 billion in economic opportunity.

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