Resource Sector

British Columbia has traditionally been a resource based economy and at one time the resource sector used to employ about half of the people working in goods-producing industries, and 14% of the total workforce in the late 1980s. Currently, only 8% of BC workers have jobs in the resource sector, as total employment in the sector has remained flat, while the number of jobs in other industries has increased significantly.

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Forestry & Logging

The forest sector includes forestry & logging, as well as wood and paper manufacturing. Wood manufacturing includes producers of lumber, plywood, veneer and other wood products such as doors, windows, pallets and particle board.

The paper industry includes producers of pulp, newsprint, cardboard, stationery, paper towels and other types of paper products.

Much of the province‘s paper production takes place in the Vancouver Island and Lower Mainland areas.

 What are the most common occupations?

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What is a typical wage?

  • These workers earned an average of $25.22 per hour, $3.76 more than the average wage in BC.

Wages in forestry & logging are well above the all-industry average.

What are the characteristics of the workforce?

  • 93% of the people who work in forestry & logging are employed full time, spending at least 30 hours a week on the job.
  • Eight out of 10 workers in the industry are male.
  • Seasonal variations in employment are quite pronounced in this industry. Employment is usually lowest in the winter months, but ramps up during the spring and summer, before starting to decline late in the year.
  • Workers in forestry & logging are more likely to be unemployed than are other BC workers. Between 1990 and 2008, unemployment rates in this industry averaged 13.5%, considerably higher than the 7.8% rate for all industries.
  • One in four workers in this industry were self-employed in 2008, making self-employment more common in this industry than in the province as a whole.
  • Contract logging (where bigger forest companies hire contractors to do some of their logging) is a fairly common practice in BC.

Seasonal variations in employment are quite significant in forestry & logging.

Where are the jobs located?

  • Nearly a sixth of the workers in logging and other primary industries such as fishing or mining have jobs in Vancouver Island/Coast, with similar numbers working in Thompson-Okanagan and Northeast.
  • Another 15% are located in Mainland/Southwest, and these industries are also major employers in Cariboo and North Coast & Nechako.

Primary industries such as logging are major employers on Vancouver Island, and in the Northern and Interior regions of the province.

 

Mining, Oil & Gas

This sector includes mining, oil & gas extraction, as well as non-metallic mineral production, primary and fabricated metals, and petroleum & coal products. Non-metallic mineral products include cement, concrete, gypsum, clay, and glass. Primary metals are metals that have been smelted or refined, and are shaped into simple forms, such as ingots, rods, bars, sheets, pipes and tubes. Fabricated metals are in more complex forms: boilers, tanks, containers, hardware, nuts, bolts, doors, cutlery and so on. The petroleum & coal products industry refines crude petroleum and coal into intermediate products.

What are the most common occupations?

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Most of the workers in this industry are miners, drillers, or mining equipment operators. Wages in mining, oil & gas extraction are well above the all-industry average. 

What is the typical wage?

  • The average hourly wage rate in mining, oil & gas extraction was $27.96 in 2008, $6.50 higher than the typical wage in BC ($21.46).
  • Workers in oil & gas extraction ($28.90) and mining ($28.88) had the highest earnings, while those employed in support activities ($25.75) received a lower hourly wage.

Wages in mining, oil & gas extraction are well above the all-industry average.

What are the characteristics of the workforce?

  • 96% of the people working in this industry have full-time jobs.
  • Eight out of 10 workers are male.
  • 36% of the workers in forestry, fishing, mining, oil & gas extraction have union coverage, about five percentage points higher than the average for the economy as a whole.
  • Seasonal variations in employment are not significant.
  • Between 1990 and 2008, the unemployment rate in mining, oil & gas extraction has averaged 7.6%. This is slightly less than the provincial rate (7.8%) and below the average for the goods industries (8.4%).
  • About 11% of the people who work in this industry are self-employed. Most of them work in exploration, development and similar activities.
  • Self-employment is not common in mining or oil & gas extraction.
  • Mining, except for panning for gold, is typically an activity that requires a huge investment in capital equipment.

Establishments in mining and other primary resource extraction tend to be a little larger than in other industries.

Where are the jobs located?

  • Mineral deposits are found in various locations around the province: copper is mined near Campbell River on Vancouver Island and in the Interior near Houston, Logan Lake, Mackenzie and Williams Lake.
  • Most of these mines also produce silver, gold or molybdenum. Molybdenum is mined in the Interior.
  • BC’s large deposits of coal are mainly found in the Crowsnest Pass area and the Northeastern regions of BC, while natural gas comes from the Peace River area.
  • The employment associated with extracting these minerals is largely localized in these areas, although many mining companies have offices in Vancouver or other urban areas.

Vancouver Island/Coast, Thompson-Okanagan and Northeast are home to about half of the workforce in resource extracting industries.

 

Utilities

25% of the world’s fresh water supply is located in Canada. A third of that water, or about 8% of the world’s total supply, can be found in British Columbia. Falling or moving water is used to generate about 90% of BC’s electric power. Electric utilities in BC rely on a bountiful source of fresh water to produce hydroelectric power at dams including the Revelstoke and Mica dams in the Kootenays, and the WAC Bennett and Peace Canyon dams in the Peace River region.

Electricity is also generated by power plants, most of which are fueled by natural gas. Some mining and mineral processing plants produce power as a by-product, and this is resold to the electric power utility. As well, power producers are investigating the feasibility of other means of generating electricity, including run-of-the-river projects, wind farms and alternative energy technologies.

The utilities industry includes establishments that operate electric power, gas and water utilities. We heat our homes, cook our food and even play computer games using electricity or natural gas that’s supplied by the utilities industry. Water purification and distribution, and sewer services are also included in this industry.

The infrastructure required to deliver electrical power and natural gas to consumers, or to supply water and sewer services is costly to build and maintain. For this reason, companies in this industry tend to be relatively large and are few in number.

 What are the most common occupations?

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Trades, transportation & equipment operators are common occupations, but there is also a large clerical and administrative workforce.

What is the typical wage?

  • The average hourly wage rate was $30.05 in 2008.
  • This is higher than in any of the other major industry groups in BC, and well above the $21.46 average for all industries in the province.
  • The wage gap may reflect the relatively large number of highly skilled workers in this industry.
  • In addition, some employees (such as power line workers) have jobs that can be quite risky, so their pay includes a risk premium.
  • Workers in the industry typically spend 38 hours a week on the job.

Average hourly earnings are higher than in any other industry.

What are the characteristics of the workforce?

  • Virtually every worker (96%) in the industry had a full-time job in 2008.
  • Self-employment is usually not an option in utilities, since the industry is highly capital intensive and relies on a costly infrastructure network.It is usually not feasible for a small operator to start an electric power or sewer system company—at least not as a small self-employed business using traditional methods of power production involving huge investments in capital equipment.
  • Employment in this industry is not highly seasonal, although some employees, such as line workers, are probably busier during the fall and winter months when stormy weather can damage power lines.However, for the industry as a whole there is only a modest variation in typical employment levels throughout the year.
  • The industry usually does not have a lot of temporary workers.Union coverage in the utilities industry is significantly higher than in any of the other goods industries.About 69% of the people who work in this industry have union coverage, more than double the provincial average (31%).
  • The unemployment rate in the utilities industry is extremely low, averaging 2.6% during the period from 1990 to 2008, a third of the 7.8% rate for all industries in BC.
  • Utilities are relatively well insulated from the ups and downs that affect the rest of the economy. Generally speaking, the demand for power, or gas, or water and sewer services doesn’t really depend on economic conditions.
  • People who are employed in utilities are likely to work in large establishments rather than smaller ones.
  • Only about a fifth of them work at an establishment where there are fewer than 20 employees.

The utilities industry is highly unionized. Seven out of ten workers have union coverage.

Where are the jobs located?

  • 68% of the workers in this industry are located in the Lower Mainland region, with another 8% living in the Vancouver Island/Coast region.
  • Utilities account for a higher-than-average share of total employment in Thompson-Okanagan (13%) and Cariboo (6%).

Over two-thirds of the jobs are located in Mainland/Southwest.