2,200 more jobs lost in May

Northeast B.C. lost another 2,200 jobs in May through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, spiking the regional unemployment rate nearly four percentage points to 11.1%

There were 34,300 people employed and 4,300 unemployed here last month, according to estimates released by Statistics Canada on June 5.

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The region has lost 4,700 jobs since the pandemic and lockdown restrictions began in March, when 39,000 were employed. The region saw 2,500 job losses in April.

At this time last year, there were 37,700 employed and 3,400 unemployed, with unemployment reported at 8.3%.

Canada’s May unemployment rate was 13.7%, the highest recorded since comparable data became available in 1976, Statistics Canada said.

But the labour market began a rebound in May as some 290,000 workers of an estimated three million who lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic gained work.

“Employment in British Columbia increased by 43,000 in May and the unemployment rate rose 1.9 percentage points to 13.4%, as more people looked for work,” the agency said.

Almost all B.C. employment increases were in the services-producing sector (up 41,000), led by accommodation and food services (up 12,000), educational services (up 12,000), and wholesale and retail trade (up 12,000).

Employment was in agriculture was up by 2,100 jobs, manufacturing by 1,200, and up 400 jobs in forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, oil, and gas. Employment was down 1,400 jobs in construction and by 7,200 in transport and warehousing.

The May labour force survey said travel restrictions, business closures and physical distancing measures were part of an intentional economy shutdown resulting “in an unprecedented shock to the Canadian labour market, including employment losses.”

The survey said unlike previous economic downturns, the impact of the COVID-19 economic shutdown was felt first in the services-producing sector and spread to goods-producing industries including construction and manufacturing by the last week of March. The April survey showed the spread into the goods-producing sector.

The survey, covering 40,000 households May 10 to 16, said restrictions have begun to ease in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces with the exception of Nova Scotia while shutdowns largely remained in Alberta, Ontario and Nova Scotia as of mid-May.

The survey found that, in May, employment rose 1.8%, while the number of people who worked less than half their usual hours dropped by 292,000 or 8.6%.

—with a report from Jeremy Hainsworth in Vancouver

Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at editor@ahnfsj.ca.

[Reader's Note: A previous version of this artlcle incorrectly reported there were 39,300 people employed in March. In fact there were 39,000, with job losses totalling 4,700 over April and May.]

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