VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — The national job loss numbers released Thursday are just the beginning, as B.C. Finance Minister Carole James expects unemployment to rise further in the province due to COVID-19.
Statistics Canada reported unemployment across the country rose to 7.8 per cent in March from 5.6 per cent in February — the greatest change in national jobless figures in more than 40 years.
In B.C., the unemployment rate rose to 7.2 per cent from five per cent, with economists suggesting about 132,000 workers were affected in the province.
“The numbers across the country are very similar to what we are seeing in British Columbia. We’re seeing a real drop in accommodation of food services — that’s hotels, restaurants,” James said.
B.C. is also seeing jobs drop in wholesale and retail trades, as well as tourism, culture, and recreation, specifically movie theatres and sporting events.
The job-loss numbers covered the period of March 15-21, she said.
Finance Minister Carole James commenting on these new employment numbers — says these numbers not “the entire picture,” points out they are from early in pandemic, jobs lost since. Also points out 7.2% unemployment doesn’t include those who were looking for work but now can’t. https://t.co/xBGZS38qYr
— Martin MacMahon (@martinmacmahon) April 9, 2020
B.C. declared a state of emergency just after March 15, and James is impressed and appreciative of the work businesses and employees are putting in to keep the economy going and to be ready for when it recovers.
Regarding programs in the new B.C. COVID-19 action plan, James said many employers are busy, even busier than before.
“I think the measures that we put in place to look at how we fill the gaps from the federal programs, whether it’s looking at reducing down the school tax portion of property tax, whether it’s providing deferrals on payments for businesses, those are going to make a difference to be able to hang on to some of the businesses for the recovery.”
That said, she expects the job loss numbers in April will be higher than in March.
“I certainly think this is going to become more challenging,” she added.
“This is very early in the pandemic and I do believe that we are going to see tougher numbers coming in the next round of statistics that come out.”
She doesn’t know how many more jobs will be lost or when the economy will recover.
“As I said, I don’t have a crystal ball, and no one can really predict when we are going to see that kind of turnaround.”
James said the best economic strategy moving forward is to follow public health advice and help flatten the pandemic curve.
James also said the provincial government is not considering layoffs or pay cuts in the public sector, as a number of employees are now working from home.
“These are difficult times and it is important that we recognize that and we provide the supports as we are doing through our programs for people and businesses who are doing everything they can to hang on through this crisis,” she said.