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‘Cautious optimism’: Report shows early signs of economic recovery in Central Okanagan

Click to play video: 'Central Okanagan economy showing early signs of recovery after being hit hard by the pandemic' Central Okanagan economy showing early signs of recovery after being hit hard by the pandemic
Central Okanagan economy showing early signs of recovery after being hit hard by the pandemic – May 10, 2021

A quarterly report released by the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission Monday morning has revealed that the local economy is seeing signs of recovery.

“We’re seeing cautious optimism that the economy is recovering,” said Krista Mallory, manager of the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission with the Regional District of Central Okanagan (RDOS).

The first quarterly 2021 economic indicators report examines the first three months of the year compared to the same time period of 2020.

“This one has been quite interesting because we are comparing the first quarter of 2021, which is January to March, with numbers from the first quarter of 2020, which is before we really saw the impact of the pandemic in our community,” Mallory told Global News.

“So we’ve been very curious to see what these numbers would look like.”

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Mallory said this latest report is a mixed bag, with some sectors rebounding and others seeing very little to no recovery yet.

“We’re happy to say that we are seeing some signs of early economic recovery in many sectors overall in the economy, while of course many still continue to be highly impacted,” she said.

One of the sectors well on the way to recovery is construction.

According to the report, building permits in the region are up by 251 per cent.

“Building permits are the leading indicator and so that’s what gives us a lot of cautious optimism for the future,” Mallory said. “That is one of the first indicators that we see.”

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The labour market, according to Mallory, is another strong indicator.

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According to the commission, Central Okanagan’s unemployment rate of 5.37 per cent among the lowest in Canada.

“We were averaging about 5.7 per cent pre-pandemic,” she said. “We have more people working now than we did pre-pandemic in our community.”

The report found that job postings are up by nearly 15 per cent in areas such as the tech sector, manufacturing and health occupations.

“That tells us that businesses are feeling confident in many sectors, again not all sectors but businesses are feeling confident and rehiring employees or taking advantage of programs that allow them to keep employees on staff,” Mallory said.

The sector that continues to struggle significantly, according to the report, is arts, entertainment and recreation.

Read more: Canada still ‘a long way off’ from COVID-19 economic recovery, experts say

“In that sector job postings are actually down 90 per cent from this time last year,” Mallory said.

With travel restrictions in place, a lot less people are traveling to the region, which has a direct impact on the arts, entertainment and recreation sector.

In fact, the report revealed that passenger numbers at Kelowna International Airport remain exceptionally low.

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“I think another number that won’t come as a surprise but it’s shocking to see down on paper is that airport passenger traffic is down over 80 per cent from this time last year,” Mallory said.

But economy watchers, like Mallory, said that local residents can help struggling sectors recover.

“What I would say to the local community, particularly about those sectors…arts, culture and recreation,hospitality, tourism is when possible and when safe, please support your local companies and see them through.”

Click here for to see the full quarterly report.

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