Job-seekers hold the power as B.C. employers struggle to fill positions

If B.C.'s job market were real estate, you could call it a buyers' market. Anyone looking for work is in luck.

Statistics Canada says the economy added 157,000 jobs across the country last month, bringing employment back to pre-pandemic levels for the first time.

In B.C., however, employment has been above pre-pandemic levels for months, and the unemployment rate fell to 5.9 per cent in September. 

Lots of employers in B.C. are struggling to find workers, a trend that's highly visible at an Esquimalt Tim Hortons.

"I see help wanted signs everywhere," customer Terry Thomson told CTV News Vancouver Island.

That includes at the doughnut shop itself, which has been closing eight hours early because it doesn't have enough employees to fill shifts.

Across the Gorge Waterway in Victoria, the Crystal Pool was scheduled to close Sunday due to a shortage of lifeguards that the city's manager of recreation services called "a perfect storm."

Part of the problem, according to Jeff Brehaut, is that restrictions early on in the pandemic made it hard to train new lifeguards, which has left the city playing catch up.

The positions are sought-after, but they require significant training and certification, Brehaut said.

"On the onset of the pandemic, there was that inability to take on those training and certification opportunities," he said.

Mark Colgate, a professor at the University of Victoria's Gustavson School of Business, says the struggle some employers are having when attempting to recruit workers is partly related to pandemic-induced changes in the workers themselves.

"People who were in certain jobs (before COVID-19) will never go back to those jobs, because, you know, they were stressful," Colgate said.

Beyond that, the abundance of open positions has afforded job-seekers the opportunity to be selective.

"If you want to jump from one company to another, you have all the power at the moment," Colgate said.

With files from CTV News Vancouver Island's Yvonne Raymond