For most of the 20th Century, the fate of B.C.’s economy was tied to resources, and their prices on the national and international markets.
If salmon and lumber and minerals brought good prices, then B.C. prospered.
If they didn’t, this province suffered.
Though primary resources are still important, they play a smaller and smaller role in the tale of B.C. employment.
Instead, we have three new pillars that hold up much of our economy: health care, retail, and construction.
Those are the three biggest employment sectors in B.C., with more than 365,000 people employed in retail and wholesale trade in December, 292,000 in health care, and 215,000 in construction.
By comparison, fishing, mining, forestry, and oil and gas, lumped together, have seen employment closer to 50,000 people, province-wide.
Health care is likely to grow, but the big worry is what will happen to construction when – or more likely if – the housing market flattens out or crashes completely.
The B.C. Liberals, prepping for their spring election, have been touting the amazing record of provincial job growth. Unemployment is low, it’s true. But just as when B.C. relied on primary industries, we now rely very heavily on housing and retail to power our jobs boom.
Both the Liberals and the NDP are making noises about increasing investments in clean energy and the high tech economy.
We do have a chance to shift to an even more skilled economic base, one that exports goods and services, rather than simply building ever more condos and houses.
Loggers and miners all knew that boom times end.
We have to prepare for the end of the housing resource boom.