Unemployment rate drops below measurable threshold in Northeast BC

Trent Ernst, Editor
In November, the unemployment rate in Northeast BC dropped so low that Stats Canada is unable to provide an accurate number. 
In October, the rate was 3.8 percent, with 39,900 people working. In November, the number of people working jumped  by 400. 
The unemployment rate in Northeast BC has dropped again in November. This time the rate is so low, BC Stats can’t provide an accurate unemployment number. In October the unemployment rate was 3.8 percent with 39,900 people working. In November, 400 new jobs were created, pushing the number of people employed up to 43,000. 
In total, there are 51,400 in this region over the age of 15. To calculate unemployment rates, one would think that you divide the number of people who are not employed by the total number of people. But it isn’t that easy says Vincent Ferrao, Analyst, Labour Statistics Division for Statistics Canada. “Not everybody in the population 15 and over are in the labour force,” says Ferrao. “Some are retired and not looking for work. Some are disabled and not able to work. Some are going to school full time and not interested in finding a job.” 
In October, the number of people looking for work vs the number of people who already had work was 3.8 percent, or approximately 1,953 people. With 400 new jobs, again, one could assume that would reduce the number of people looking for work to 1,553, or just over three percent. 
Ferrao says that’s a fair assessment, but cautions that the smaller the sampling, the less accurate the number. In fact, that’s why the unemployment rate for November is not applicable: there are not enough people who are unemployed. “You need at least 1,500 unemployed people to calculate a rate,” says Ferrao. “If it’s less that 1,500, we don’t publish the estimate. You just don’t have enough people to calculate an estimate, because these are estimates from a sample. Last month there were 1,600 unemployed, so there was enough to calculate a rate.”
Ferrao says that employment rates are based on a sample of the population. 
Across Canada, Stats Can talks to 56,000 households every month, or just over 100,000 on average. 
“If you’re a part of that sample, the interviewer will contact you and interview people 15 years old or older in the household. If you weren’t working and were looking for work, you’d be classified as unemployed. The criteria is that you have to be looking for work.”
Every month, one sixth of the sample is replaced, meaning that a household is in the sample for six months. 
Though not common, this is not the first time that the number of people unemployed in a region has fallen below measurable levels. Since April of 2011, the unemployment rate in Northeastern BC has hovered between three and five percent, says Ferrao, and fell below measurable levels for three months, from November of last year to January of this year.  
“I’ve seen it happen before. I can’t tell you how often, but it has happened. Usually we have an unemployment number, but if it’s close to that threshold, it doesn’t take much to fall below that.”
The rates put Northeastern BC into some of the lowest unemployment levels in the country, though not the lowest. In Southwest Manitoba, the unemployment rate is at 2.5 percent.