Central Okanagan economy grapples with labor shortage – Kelowna Capital News

Businesses in the central Okanagan appear to be facing a similar problem, with job vacancies leaving employers wondering where all the pre-pandemic workers have gone.

The Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission (COEDC) can provide some insight into the current labor market climate, but there are no easy solutions to the current trend of economic uncertainty caused by national issues. and global markets, rising interest rates and post-COVID supply chain delays. .

Krista Mallory, COEDC manager, says the labor shortage trend is not unique to the central Okanagan, but there are relevant regional factors influencing it.

Mallory cites how from January to June this year, there was a 52% increase in job vacancies compared to the same period in 2021, reflecting a local economy emerging from the post-pandemic era, being the fastest growing metropolitan area in Canada as it found itself in the midst of a labor shortage.

“On top of that, we have one of the lowest unemployment rates in Canada, so yes, we’re growing faster than other parts of Canada, but that exacerbates some of the challenges we face locally,” he said. she declared.

This has been accompanied in our region by a demographic change in the population of people over 65, which has increased by 20% in the last five years.

“That’s comparable to the national rate change in this category of 18.3% as you start to see this global shift in baby boomers reaching retirement age, a trend that is expected to accelerate in the coming years,” Mallory said. said.

“And, we’re also seeing across the board after the pandemic that people are reassessing their plans and choosing to retire rather than continue working.”

Mallory refers to what others call “the great resignation”, where in addition to people retiring, workers change jobs or actively seek something new to do beyond what they have for. trained, creating a turbulent labor market.

“Another aspect on which there is no concrete data at this stage is that certain professions see former employees retraining and no longer in these fields. So we’re seeing more jobs and fewer people qualified to fill many of them,” she said.

But there are some economic benefits, Mallory cites, such as, coupled with the 20% growth in retired residents, there was also a 12.6% growth in 15-64 year olds from 2016 to 2021, a statistic important because it means more job seekers moving to the central Okanagan.

“That’s a lot because the average for that 15 to 64 year old group in British Columbia is 5.1%, and in Canada it’s 2.5%. Professionals and families are relocating to our region. It’s hard to attribute the reason to one thing, but it’s pretty clear that the word got out about Kelowna.

Mallory said where the COEDC office in Kelowna would receive business or employment inquiries primarily from residents or business investors in Alberta and the Lower Mainland, those inquiries are now coming from across Canada.

“One of the most noticeable things in recent years is the number of people moving here from Toronto, which we didn’t see happening before.”

She said the commercialization of the Okanagan lifestyle and the impact and career opportunities provided by the presence of UBC Okanagan and Okanagan College are driving strong growth in the region.

But again, tipping the scales to find a middle ground, Mallory acknowledged, it’s the cost of living in the Okanagan, primarily housing prices, that’s keeping people from moving here.

“Housing affordability is a huge challenge right now. Part of this comes from growth, as employers tell us they have good candidates for vacancies who choose to turn down a job offer due to the challenge of affordability and housing availability.

She said the tourism sector remains a big influencer of the dynamics of the regional economy, as do opportunities in technology, agriculture, manufacturing, retail and services, and l aerospace industry.

“Our region’s economic fundamentals remain strong and entrepreneurship and resilience are still strong despite fires, floods and the pandemic.”

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