Service Sector

This sector of British Columbia’s economy continues to see exponential growth as our population ages and British Columbians require more personal services and as the world discovers our province’s natural beauty and our hospitality industry grows.

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British Columbia has become an international tourist destination, making hospitality an important sector of our provincial economy. Many visitors from Asia and the Pacific Rim first enter Canada through Vancouver’s airport and spend time travelling through the province.

What are the most common occupations?


Eight out of 10 workers are employed in sales and service occupations.

What is a typical wage?

  • Hourly wage rates in the industry are low, averaging $13.00 an hour in 2008, $8.46 less than the average for all industries in the province, and lower than in any other industry.
  • Wages averaged $12.14 an hour in food services and drinking places.
  • Workers in accommodation services received an average hourly wage of $16.36.
  • The typical worker spent 31 hours a week on the job in 2008.
  • Workers usually supplement their earnings with tips received from customers. A standard tip is usually between 10% and 20% of the bill, so some food and beverage service workers derive more of their income from this source than from the wages that they’re paid by their employers.

Wages in accommodation & food services are lower than in any other industry.

What are the characteristics of the workforce?

  • Part-time employment is very common and almost 40% of workers were employed part time in 2008.
  • Seasonal variations in employment are quite pronounced, with employment lowest in the winter months, building up in the summer, when more people are travelling, and then dipping in the fall.
  • About 15% of the workers are employed on a temporary rather than permanent basis given the highly seasonal nature of this industry.
  • Unionization is not common: only 8% of the workers in accommodation & food services have union coverage.
  • The workforce is largely female, with women holding three out of every five jobs.
  • Workers in this industry are more likely to experience unemployment than other service-sector workers.
  • 10% of workers in the accommodation industry and 9% of those employed in food services and drinking places, are self-employed.

Employment in the industry usually peaks during the summer months, and picks up at the end of the year.

Where are the jobs located?

  • Ski resorts, golf courses, wineries, hunting and fishing lodges can be found in all regions of the province. They attract millions of visitors each year to enjoy BC’s natural beauty.
  • The Thompson-Okanagan accounts for a slightly larger than average share of total employment in this industry. With its scenic beauty, orchards, wineries, and varied outdoor recreation opportunities, the region is a popular spot for tourists.
  • Vancouver Island/Coast is also popular with tourists from North America and overseas, who often include a visit to Victoria, the Gulf Islands, Long Beach, or other parts of the region in their travel itineraries. Famous hotels such as the Empress, a historic railway hotel located in Victoria, are tourist attractions in their own right.

Vancouver Island/Coast and Thompson-Okanagan have higher-than-average shares of jobs in this industry.


Personal Service

The services provided by people working in this industry are mainly used by individuals or households, and cover a wide range of activities. They are often labour-intensive, and can require specialized skills. Many, but not all, of these services are somewhat discretionary by nature.

What are the most common occupations?


Almost four out of 10 workers in this industry are in sales & service occupations.

What is a typical wage?

  • Workers earned an average hourly wage of $18.20 in 2008.
  • There is a great deal of variability in pay scales within this industry.
  • People who were employed by private households received an average wage of $11.19 an hour, while those employed in personal services typically earned $13.55 an hour.
  • The average work week was 36 hours long.

Wages are below the average for all industries.

What are the characteristics of the workforce?

  • One in four people who work in this industry are employed part time. That’s slightly higher than the average for all industries (20%).
  • There is not much seasonal variability in employment.
  • Just 9% of the workers in this industry were employed on a temporary basis in 2008, slightly less than the 11% average for all industries in the province.
  • Most workers do not have union coverage.
  • Just 11% were covered by collective agreements in 2008, compared to 31% for the economy as a whole.
  • Women make up 56% of the workforce, considerably more than their share of total employment (47%).
  • 31% of workers are self-employed, well above the 19% average for the economy as a whole.
  • Unemployment rates in the industry averaged 5.3% during the period from 1990 to 2008. This was well below the average for all industries in the province (7.8%).
  • Most of the people who work in this industry are employed in small establishments with fewer than 100 workers.

One in three workers are self-employed.

Where are the jobs located?

  • Most of the people work in Mainland/Southwest (63%) or Vancouver Island/Coast (18%).
  • Thompson-Okanagan accounts for 10% of the workforce, slightly less than the region’s share of the total population.

The distribution of jobs in this industry is similar to the distribution of the province’s workforce.