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B.C. Government Math: When 1 Million May Actually Mean 210,000

03/12/2014 12:34 EDT | Updated 05/11/2014 05:59 EDT

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It would be tough to miss the ad, particularly if you're trying to watch anything online. The one where WorkBC tells us that: "B.C.'s growing economy will lead to one million job openings by 2020."

Since it was uploaded to YouTube in February, it's had more than a million views, the bulk of them paid for by the very people it's trying to influence -- B.C. taxpayers. Rarely does it come with YouTube's version of the mute button: the opportunity to skip the ad after five seconds. Even Enbridge's Northern Gateway ads give you that choice.

Funny what the ad doesn't mention though. It doesn't say that those million jobs come by counting all the job openings in B.C. starting from 2010. More than four years of openings have come and gone, but the ad's overall total was never reduced to take those jobs into account.

Heck with that logic, any number is possible. It's almost as bad as saying there will be more than 2.3 million job openings in B.C., by starting the count from when W.A.C. Bennett was premier.

The B.C. ministry responsible for jobs says the province has been clear on its job numbers. Yeah, clear as mud.

According to WorkBC's website: "Unemployment is expected to drop to 6.5 per cent by 2015 and 5.2 per cent by 2020, as more than one million new jobs open up across the province."

So which is it: "one million job openings" as the ad states or "one million new jobs" as the website states? Because they're not the same thing. According to mapyourcareer.org, a "new job" is a job that "did not previously exist."

B.C.'s Labour Market Outlook -- which WorkBC relied on for that one million jobs stat -- clearly states that "Over one million job openings are expected in B.C. from 2010 to 2020."

But something WorkBC's ad doesn't mention is that close to two-thirds of those openings "will be due to replacement demand as a result of retiring workers and deaths." Those jobs aren't the result of "B.C.'s growing economy."

Dig a little further into the report and you'll find that the other "one-third of job openings will be due to new jobs that result from economic growth." Again starting from 2010.

And who's going to fill a good chunk of these openings? The Market Outlook has some answers on that too: "The B.C. labour market is expected to rely increasingly on migrants for new labour supply over the outlook period. New migrants to B.C. are expected to fill one-third of job openings to 2020."

A fact not lost on the B.C. government. According to Michael Smyth in The Province: "The Ministry of Natural Gas Development has an 'action plan' to get the credentials of foreign workers quickly recognized and certified in B.C.," based on a request-for-proposal posted on a government website.

Oh, and the best years for job growth are pretty well behind us. According to the Market Outlook: "For 2010-2020, demand for workers is expected to grow by an average of 1.7 per cent in the first half, then by 0.9 per cent in the second half of the forecast."

The Ontario government forecasts that job creation in that province "is expected to strengthen over the medium term, with employment increasing by 1.4 per cent in 2014, and 1.5 per cent in both 2015 and 2016."

WorkBC was likely hoping few would go looking for the Labour Market Outlook from the ad's "findyourfit" vanity url to verify whether or not the one million job openings was true. And it would be tough to find, even if you wanted to from that landing page.

Given that four years of job openings from the one million estimate have come and gone, that demand for workers is going to slow in the remaining years, and that one-third of the openings are likely to be filled by new migrants one can only hope that the leftovers for British Columbians are well-paid, because a survey from The Economist released last week has Vancouver ranked as the 30th most expensive place to live on earth.

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