Construction of an office and residential building in Victoria in 2019. B.C. kept construction going during the COVID-19 pandemic and has avoided retail and restaurant restrictions seen elsewhere in Canada. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

Construction of an office and residential building in Victoria in 2019. B.C. kept construction going during the COVID-19 pandemic and has avoided retail and restaurant restrictions seen elsewhere in Canada. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

B.C. unemployment rate climbs as COVID-19 drags on

Recovery stalled here, going backwards in Ontario, Quebec

B.C.’s net gain of 2,800 jobs in January is better than most places in Canada, but that’s a statistical blip as the overall unemployment rate rose from 7.2 to eight per cent, the Business Council of B.C.’s chief economist says.

“I think it’s pretty clear that the recovery process has stalled out here,” Ken Peacock told Black Press Media Feb. 5. “After the initial surge when things opened up to some degree, we saw the big bump, but I never expected it to continue, and I think we’re now at that time.”

Statistics Canada’s monthly labour force report contrasted B.C.’s positive results with big job losses in Ontario and Quebec as their COVID-19 spread prompted a shutdown of non-essential retail and other businesses. B.C. is hanging on, keeping restaurants and pubs as well as hair salons and other services open with public health restrictions.

RELATED: Canada’s unemployment rate highest since August

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“The fact that we had a more nuanced and targeted approach that actually didn’t shutter non-essential retail or even restaurants, it definitely contributed to us having, not a strong jobs report, but much better than other parts of the country,” Peacock said.

Manufacturing and agriculture jobs are actually up in B.C. since January 2020, before the spread of the novel coronavirus from China forced measures that flattened travel and tourism-related business around the world.

“Our province’s economic recovery will not fully take hold until vaccinations have been fully administered, which is why it is critically important we do everything we can to prevent the spread of this virus,” B.C. Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon said in a statement on the monthly job numbers.

Nationally, the labour force survey found that Canada lost more than 210,000 jobs in January, bringing the unemployment rate to 9.4 per cent, the highest since August 2020. The January losses put Canada 4.5 per cent short of the employment level in pre-pandemic Canada last February.

Peacock said the delays in vaccination and the target to have most of the population immunized by next September means little short-term improvement for hospitality and tourism work.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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