VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — B.C. saw an increase in jobs in May as pandemic health and safety restrictions eased, but the unemployment rate increased again, with young people and food, wholesale and retail industries affected most.
Statistics Canada released a report Friday on the effect COVID-19 had on employment across the country in May. It showed a record-high unemployment rate, although the economy added 289,600 jobs.
Those figures were mirrored in B.C., where 43,300 jobs were added last month, but unemployment reached 13.4 per cent — up from 7.2 in March and five in February.
The new survey reflects job and employment figures from May 10 to 16, before B.C. began allowing businesses and services to gradually restart.
The numbers continue to show a volatile labor market across every sector, and in every region of B.C., said Finance Minister Carole James.
“We are beginning to see some glimmers of increased confidence, but we also know we have a long road ahead of us to recovery,” she said.
Overall, B.C. has seen job losses of more than 353,000 since the pandemic began.
In total, B.C. has seen 115,000 job losses since the pandemic began, among youth.
Young people have been severely affected, she added.
The youth unemployment rate hit 28.9 per cent last month.
“And that’s really a reflection of the sectors that are suffering the most — accommodation and food services, and wholesale and retail trade. Those sectors still continue to lead all other industries and job losses, making up 46 per cent of the total jobs lost, ” she said.
Finance minister Carole James updates media on latest employment data.
— BC Government News (@BCGovNews) June 5, 2020
“We have to remember that those numbers are families, they’re individuals, they’re small businesses who have really struggled and are continuing to struggle as we move into recovery.”
James said, to date, more than 521,000 people in B.C. have received the one-time $1,000 B.C. emergency benefit for workers.
She also said the provincial government has worked with its federal counterpart to expand the 75 per cent wage subsidy for workers, while banning commercial landlords from evicting small businesses that can’t pay rent due to the pandemic.
“We know businesses need our support as well,” she added.
Next month, B.C. residents will automatically receive a larger climate action tax credit.
James said B.C. is waiting to see what share it will receive of the $14-billion announced by the federal government Friday to help provinces.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said how the money is distributed will depend on reaching a “safe-restart agreement” between the federal government and each province or territory.
“We certainly are keen to partner up with the federal, just as we’ve done in the pandemic time period,” James said. “We’re keen to partner up and see where we can get the best bang for our buck and we can combine our efforts to be able to look at economic recovery.”