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Hot Jobs: B.C.’s Labour Market Outlook to 2028

By Jock Finlayson

For those interested in the hottest job trends, the provincial government’s new Labour Market Outlook is worth a look.

Over the next decade, the government is forecasting a total of 903,000 job openings in B.C.  More than 600,000 will result from current workers transitioning into retirement.  Many of these positions can be filled by younger cohorts, but that won’t be enough to produce warm bodies for all of the anticipated vacancies. The other 300,000 or so job openings will arise due to economic growth.  To staff these as well as some of the replacement positions, the supply of workers will have to be expanded -- through immigration, by attracting people from other provinces, and by tapping into underutilized labour pools.  

A Historic Shift 

In the next 20 years, the labour force will undergo an unprecedented shift.  For the first time, new workforce entrants will be outnumbered by the greying multitudes they are set to replace.  As highlighted in the last two census counts, B.C.’s population aged 65 years and older is increasing, while the number of prime working-age people is flat or even trending downward (depending on age-specific cohort).   

The government’s projections indicate that half of job openings through 2028 will be taken by individuals entering the workforce for the first time – mainly young adults.  Another 15 per cent will be filled by other British Columbians not presently in the labour force.  The assumption underlying this prediction is that in an environment of steady labour demand and higher wages, more people will be drawn to work.  The remaining one-third of job openings will be filled through interprovincial migration (8 per cent) and international immigration (27 per cent).

Figure 1:  Sources of New Workers, B.C., 2018-2028, Annual

                   Source:  British Columbia Labour Market Outlook:  2018 Edition, pg. 13.

 

Jobs and Skills in High Demand  

There are varied patterns of expected job vacancies across industry sectors and occupations. 

By industry, health care is poised for the most pronounced employment growth, followed by professional, scientific and technical services. Taken together, these two sectors account for more than a quarter of all job vacancies between 2018 and 2028.  Other industries expected to have relatively strong labour demand include retail trade, accommodation and foodservices, and financial services. 

Three-quarters of future job openings will require applicants with some form of post-secondary education or training – a degree, a diploma, an apprenticeship, or a technical qualification.  This speaks to the rising demand for skills.  But it is also a sign of “credential creep,” as many jobs that previously didn’t require post-secondary qualifications now do. 

Figure 2:  Job Openings by Education Requirements, B.C., 2018-2028

                    Source:  British Columbia Labour Market Outlook:  2018 Edition, pg. 15.

The government’s labour market forecast does not envisage significant job destruction due to automation and other advances in technology – at least in the next ten years.  That may prove optimistic.  My colleague David Williams will soon publish a paper that takes a closer look at the implications of digitalization and automation for the B.C. job market.  

Below is a list of high-demand occupations that require some form of post-secondary education or training.  The numbers cited are the projected job openings through 2028. 

Occupation Projected Job Openings
to 2028
Registered nurses 47,396
Health care assistants 34,717
Retail and wholesale trade managers 20,600
Administrative officers 17,100
Financial auditors/accountants 10,800
Accounting technicians/bookkeepers 10,600
Elementary/kindergarten teachers 10,100
Licensed practical nurses 9,612
Early childhood educators 8,900
Information system analysts 8,700
Computer programmers 8,000
Automotive service technicians 6,400
General practitioners/family physicians 6,218
College instructors 6,300
Lawyers 5,400
Software engineers/designers 4,800
Computer/information systems managers 4,800
Facility operating/maintenance managers 4,800

 

The labour market and economy are already feeling the effects of demographic change.  Even now, employers are struggling to staff front-line positions in sectors like retail, business services and transportation.  Access to labour is a concern in every B.C. industry.  It is destined to become an even bigger preoccupation for human resource managers and CEOs in the coming decade.