February 5, 2019 9:50 pm
Updated: February 5, 2019 9:54 pm

Low unemployment rate creates competition for workers in the Okanagan

Watch: The low unemployment rate in the Thompson-Okanagan has created a competitive hiring climate.


The regional unemployment rate in the Thompson-Okanagan area of B.C. is lower than it’s been in years.

This is great news for jobseekers but not for businesses, who are being forced to compete for a dwindling number of applicants.

“We currently have approximately 50 vacancies,” said Jennifer Suleiman, a human resources adviser for Natural Factors.

“[We are] hoping to get a lot of these positions filled so that our current employees, who are working all the overtime, don’t need to be working overtime.”

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Natural Factors is a growing Kelowna nutraceutical company, and the manufacturer is having trouble finding staff to keep up with that growth.

The company is not alone. The bulletin boards at the Community Futures job centre in Vernon are filled with notices from employers looking for staff.

READ MORE: B.C. jobless rate drops 1.1 per cent, ties for largest drop in provincial history

Some are fairly desperate to find workers.

“They are looking around our resource centre and asking if anybody could start with them right then and there,” said Mike Champigny, client services manager at Community Futures North Okanagan.

The latest data from Statistics Canada for the Thompson-Okanagan region had the unemployment rate at just 4.7 per cent in December.

That’s the lowest it has been since the summer of 2015.

A graph showing the unemployment rate in the Thompson-Okanagan over the last five years.

“What it means right now is a lot of pain for employers, and that limits our production and our prosperity here,” said Champigny.

“We are hearing from restaurants that have to adjust their hours. They are closing early, they can’t find dishwashers, servers, cooks.”

At the job centre, staff are finding both skilled and unskilled workers are in demand.

“There is just not enough people to do the work here and then you throw in some other factors like affordable housing being so scarce, and that limits new people from moving into the area to fill some of these jobs,” Champigny said.

READ MORE: Canada’s 2019 tax season: 4 things you need to know

However, despite the low unemployment rate, the search isn’t always easy for those looking for work.

“[In] hospitality, it is tough to get a wage that is liveable,” said Derek Thompson, who is looking for a job.

Back at Natural Factors, the expanding business is hoping to fill dozens of empty positions with a job fair this Friday and Saturday.

“It is challenging. We have definitely had a lot of challenges but we also have identified that we need to do more to let people know that we are a great employer and we are out here right in the Okanagan,” Suleiman said.

While it’s normally job hunters who must promote themselves, these days it’s employers who are putting their best face forward as they compete for the available labour pool.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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