Job growth ?

Today’s Times-Colonist features an article that looks at various job sectors on Vancouver Island and their potential for growth. I feel obligated to read these types of articles. They help me to understand the small and larger trend shifts that happen in our labour market. Anybody who is interested in career management or searching for work should seek out this type of information.

The cold truth of the matter is that these type of articles, even one like this one that is based on economic analysis from a private consulting firm are inherently flawed. For example the construction sector has been placed in the vague “Declining at least in the short-term” category. I guarantee you that as recently as ten months ago there were projections about the construction sector that forecasted strong and ongoing demand for workers. What was this based on ? An inventory of large scale commercial construction projects, continuing strong demand for residential housing and an aging work force.

What has happened since then ? Obviously a lot has changed in the last ten months. There continue to remain large-scale construction projects in the pipeline but many are now dependent on infrastructure funding from various levels of government. How long will governments be able to maintain deficit budgets while they attempt to stimulate the economy ? Unclear. The demand for residential housing has had a large drop-off.  Many new condominium projects in the Capital Region feature unsold units. The average construction tradesperson is nearing retirement age. But given recent stock market and mutual fund losses in the 20-30% range how many of them will retire ? Again, unclear.

So if these types of articles are inherently flawed why do we give them our attention ? By acquiring information about short-term trends in the labour market we are able to connect this information to larger national and global trends which can help to guide us. Projections are a “best guess”. We don’t use them to make major decisions about our careers but as a tool to understand the bigger picture.

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