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Northeast B.C. unemployment at 4.2% in March

B.C. loses 132k jobs in March as pandemic takes toll
construction worker

The first punch of the pandemic left B.C. with 132,000 fewer jobs in March, with much of the shock felt in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.

But data released April 9 reveals the worst is yet to come.

Statistics Canada emphasized in its monthly release that its Labour Force Survey was conducted March 15 to 21 — before much of the pandemic’s impact on the job market had been realized.

The official data shows B.C.’s unemployment rate climbed 2.2 percentage points to reach 7.2% in March.

In the Northeast, there were an estimated 39,000 people employed here last month, down just 300 from February, and up by more than 1,300 from March 2019.

While the unemployment rate was too low to be reported here in February, it was pegged at 4.2% for March.

Meanwhile, Canada as a whole lost 1,011,000 jobs, driving the unemployment rate up 2.2 percentage points to reach 7.8%.

The federal government revealed Wednesday that 4.26 million Canadians have applied for various forms of emergency of unemployment assistance, be it through Employment Insurance or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

The actual numbers for March, which won’t become clear until next month, are grimmer than what Statistics Canada’s data can reflect based on the period its survey was conducted.

“To put this loss into perspective, more than three years of job gains were erased in a single month, as we last saw this level of employment in late 2016,” BMO chief economist Douglas Porter said in a note to investors, referring to the national numbers.

“But as shocking as these numbers are, the big issue is how long do the shutdowns last, and thus how persistent is this spike in joblessness? That is still very much open for debate. We continue to assert that as distancing measures lighten, many jobs will return quickly ... but clearly not all.”

In B.C., jobs in wholesale and retail trade plunged by 40,100 positions, while accommodation and food services saw 36,400 jobs lost. The construction sector saw 6,200 fewer jobs, while forestry, fishing, mining, and oil and gas saw 500 fewer jobs month over month.

The province’s manufacturing (+2,600 jobs) and agriculture (+3,800 jobs) both experienced gains.

Unemployment rates in B.C.:

  • Cariboo - 8.7

  • Thompson-Okanagan - 7.2

  • Vancouver Island and Coast - 6.3

North Coast and Nechako - 6.2

  • Kootenay - 6.2

  • Lower Mainland Southwest - 5.4

  • Northeast - 4.2

This is a developing story.

— With a report from Tyler Orton in Vancouver

Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at