B.C. jobs minister says drop in unemployment rate tied to Asian economiesCanadian Press, The
By Keven Drews
VANCOUVER _ Growth in British Columbia's manufacturing sectors and investment from and trade with Asia were behind an increase of 3,600 jobs in June over the previous month, says the minister of jobs, tourism and innovation.
Statistics Canada released new figures Friday showing B.C.'s unemployment rate slid to 6.6 per cent in June from 7.4 per cent in May.
Jobs Minister Pat Bell credits the employment boost to growth in the forestry, mining and energy sectors.
While trade and investment with Asia has become a two-way street, Bell said B.C. must continue to develop the right trade strategies so its competitors don't surpass the province.
"Australia is a primary competitor for us in that market in resources and minerals and liquefied natural gas," said Bell. "Qatar is a major competitor for us. The United States has turned its mind to the Chinese and Indian markets.
"So we have to outperform all of those jurisdictions. And I think that if we are smart, if we take advantage of it, if we get early into the Chinese and Indian markets we can do very well."
Bell pointed specifically to a $5.5-billion dollar offer to buy into gas fields in B.C.'s northeast by Petronas, Malaysia's state-owned oil and gas company, as well as continued investment by China Investment Corp. into Vancouver-based Teck Resources Ltd. (TSX:TCK.B).
The province's forestry sector is also seeing investment from China, he added.
About 100 people are currently working on behalf of B.C.'s investment interests in Asia, employed mostly in China, said Bell, noting B.C. will be opening additional offices in India in the coming weeks, and expanding smaller trade teams in Japan and Korea.
While the United States remains B.C.'s largest trading partner, the combined Asian economies of Japan and China have now surpassed our neighbours to the south.
"I think we're well positioned with the work that we have done in China and India. India is a brand new market really for us and just starting to grow. Japan, Korea, those economies continue to grow. And if the United States sees a little bit of recovery, again, I think B.C. is well positioned."
When it comes to tourism, B.C. is also seeing an increase in visitors from China, said Bell.
The province saw an 18 per cent jump in the number of tourists from China last year, and now about 200,000 Chinese visit the province annually, said Bell.
If the trend continues, said Bell, China could catch up in the next five years to the United Kingdom, which sends about 1 million visitors to B.C. annually.
Bell said young adults looking for work should focus on the tourism and hospitality industries, sectors where the minister said he got his start.
"It can be a great career opportunity, and it's often overlooked," said Bell. "There will be many, many jobs available in that sector. The tourism sector is just ramping up right now in terms of hiring people."