British Columbia's unemployment rate remained the lowest in the country in December, but it recorded its first year-over-year increase for the last month of a year since 2015.
The provincial unemployment rate stood at 4.9 per cent as 2019 drew to a close, according to data released by Statistics Canada on Friday. That's unchanged from what it was in November, but up six-tenths of a percentage point since December 2018, when 4.3 per cent of B.C.'s labour force was considered unemployed.
The last time the provincial unemployment rate recorded a year-over-year increase in December was in 2015, when 6.3 per cent of the workforce was considered unemployed, up from 5.7 per cent 12 months earlier.
Though B.C.'s unemployment rate increased over the course of 2019, the number of people employed in the province went up. In December 2018, there were 2,528,700 people employed in the province. This December, there were 2,553,800, an increase of roughly 25,100 jobs.
That said, the growth in the number of jobs in the province did not keep pace with the growth of the provincial labour force over the last 12 months, which explains the increase in the unemployment rate.
In a statement, B.C.'s Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology Bruce Ralston said the newly released employment numbers showed "a resilient economy in British Columbia, despite uncertainty around the globe."
Ralston's statement highlighted the fact that the province's unemployment rate remained Canada's lowest, while also citing GDP and wage growth as positive indicators.
"Our province's economy set the standard across Canada last year," the minister said.
But some parts of the province set a different standard than others.
Statistics Canada provides employment data for several census metropolitan areas within British Columbia, including Vancouver, Victoria and Kelowna.
All three of those CMAs have lower unemployment rates than the province as a whole, a finding that implies higher unemployment rates elsewhere in the province.
Indeed, unemployment rates in small population centres and rural areas not considered part of a CMA were higher than the provincial average in 2019, according to Statistics Canada - though monthly data is not available for those areas.
Similarly, while Vancouver and Kelowna followed the provincial trend of increased unemployment in 2019, Victoria's unemployment rate actually declined - slightly - from December 2018 to December 2019.
These employment figures come after a year in which the provincial government faced significant criticism from forestry workers, who have been hit hard by lumber mill shutdowns amid "a major crisis" in their industry.