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Northeast B.C. unemployment up to 4.9% in April

Key indicators remain lowest in B.C.
SiteC-SpillwayHeadworks-April 2021-2
Workers place concrete at the Site C spillway headworks, April 2021.

Employment in northeast B.C. was down by 100 in April amid “circuit breaker” public health restrictions to slow the spread of Covid-19.

There were 39,200 employed and 2,000 unemployed last month, according to Statistics Canada estimates, with the unemployment rate up to 4.9% from March when 39,300 were employed

The region continues to post the lowest unemployment and boast the best employment rates in B.C.: labour force participation is 75.2% while overall employment is at 71.5%.

And year-over-year, employment is up from last April when the region saw its first month of sharp job losses at the start of the pandemic.

"The Canadian labour market took a tumble in April due to a tightening public health measures imposed in the month across much of the country," wrote Sri Thanabalasingam, senior economist with TD Economics, in a note to investors.

Across B.C., the province lost 43,100 jobs from March, with part-time positions making up most of the decline, specifically in industries affected by orders to restrict indoor dining and recreational activities.

Losses in accommodation and food services (-21,900), information, culture and recreation (-16,900) and educational services (-4,800) contributed most to B.C.'s drop in employment. Professional, scientific and technical services saw the biggest gain, adding 6,800 new positions in April.

Resource sectors including forestry, fishing, mining, and oil and gas saw 2,700 new positions last month.

Month-to-month, B.C.'s unemployment rate remained relatively unchanged at 7.1%, and a full percentage point below the national average of 8.1%, which rose 0.6% month-to-month.

Unemployment in B.C.:

  • North Coast and Nechako - 8.1

  • Thompson-Okanagan - 8.1

  • Lower Mainland Southwest - 7.2

  • Vancouver Island and Coast - 7.2

  • Kootenay - 6.2

  • Cariboo - 6.1

  • Northeast - 4.9

Northeast B.C. posted six months of job gains to end 2020, but has seen four months of declines to start this year due to public health measures.

Overall employment is down from January when 40,100 were employed, and when orders were put in place to limit the ramp up of workforces at industrial projects across northern B.C.

Current “circuit breaker” restrictions are in place until after the May long weekend.

"With restrictions remaining in place across the country, Canada's labour market recovery will probably not fully course correct in May,” said Thanabalasingam with TD Economics. “The snapback could occur in June however, as the vaccination rollout ramps up, and caseloads gradually decline in large parts of the country."

National employment fell by 207,000 jobs (-1.1%) on a monthly basis. Nearly half of those losses affected youth: employment among Canadians aged 15 to 24 fell by 101,000 (-4.2%), with losses concentrated in B.C. and Ontario

Both full-time (-129,000) and part-time (-78,000) job losses contributed to the decline. Employment fell in industries exposed to provincial health restrictions, including retail trade, accommodation and food services, and information, culture and recreation.

The contraction in national employment follows the addition of 562,000 jobs over the February and March.

It leaves employment 2.6% below its pre-pandemic level, said Thanabalasingam.

One hundred thousand more Canadians reported working from home last month compared with March, for a total of 5.1 million.

The number of long-term unemployed Canadians – those who have been out of work for 27 weeks or more – rose to 486,000.

"As in prior waves of virus spread, employment will rebound once containment measures can be eased," wrote RBC Economics senior economist Nathan Janzen in a market update.

— with files from Tyler Orton/Business in Vancouver

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