B.C.'s jobless rate down to 5.9; still the only province 'notably' above pre-pandemic employment levels
British Columbia again saw the third-lowest unemployment rate of Canadian provinces last month.
According to national statistics posted Friday, the rate in B.C. fell to 5.9 per cent in September, from 6.2 the month before.
With the Canada-wide rate now at 6.9, B.C. appears to be recovering from the pandemic better than much of the country.
But, if you stop and talk to some business owners in Vancouver, many of them will tell you making ends meet is still a huge challenge right now.
“The reality is we haven’t made the hay we need during the summertime to be able to get through the winter,” says Dan Webster, co-owner of Container Brewing in East Vancouver.
“In my opinion, I don’t think we’re really recovering yet. Until we actually have people coming from all around the world and visiting our fine city, we’re not recovering yet. It’s still just battling along.”
Container Brewing first opened its doors in November 2019, so it was only open for four months before the pandemic first struck. The brewery has relied heavily on the local community for support – as well as government subsidies – to keep the doors open and to keep people employed.
“What we really need now is continued provincial and federal support,” said Webster.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) says only about 39 per cent of its members have normal levels of employment right now, and only 46 per cent are making normal revenues.
“Debt is a huge concern,” said Seth Scott, CFIB senior policy analyst for B.C. and the North. “It’s not just a light switch, it’s more like a dimmer we’re going to have to slowly move our way back up, we can’t just turn the economy on.”
Unemployment rates were lower in Manitoba (5.6 per cent) and Quebec (5.7).
In terms of individual jobs, Statistics Canada says the economy added 157,000 across the country last month, bringing employment back to pre-pandemic levels for the first time.
It's not the first time B.C. has been back to those levels, however. June and July numbers on the West Coast were consistent with what was seen before COVID-19 swept through the country.
During that time, B.C. was the only province in Canada with that kind of recovery.
In September, it remained the only province with employment "notably" above that level, StatCan said.
Minister of Jobs Ravi Kahlon said the provincial job recovery rate is at 101.5 per cent.
In a news release following the data, Kahlon described the province as "leading Canada's economic recovery," saying 12,300 jobs were added last month.
Among the latest gains, B.C.'s increase in hires in the education field in September helped bring up the rest of the country.
Jobs were also added in public administration and a category called "business, building and other support services," among others.
The biggest areas of loss in B.C. were health care and social assistance, wholesale and retail, utilities and construction.
The age category with the highest jobless rate was between 15 and 24. In B.C., men were slightly more likely to be unemployed than women last month.
"Women, who have been disproportionately impacted by this pandemic, led B.C.'s increase in employment for the month of September," Kahlon said.
The rate of recovery also rose for Indigenous peoples.
Elsewhere in Canada, some provinces are experiencing double the rate of joblessness, including in Newfoundland and Labrador, where the metric grew from August to 13.1 from 12.1. In Prince Edward Island, the unemployment rate was at 11.3 per cent.
While the average in B.C. is 5.9, some parts of the province lost or gained more jobs than others.
In Kelowna, the rate was actually lower than the province-wide average at 5.4 per cent, an improvement from August's 5.7.
Abbotsford-Mission and Vancouver saw more people out of work, however, with rates at 6.9 and 6.7 per cent, respectively.
But Victoria fared much better, with 4.2 per cent of workers in the labour force still searching for jobs.
Looking at recovery, Prince George has led the province with a rate of 107.1 per cent. The province highlighted a 106.8 per cent recovery rate in the Thompson-Okanagan area and 104.6 per cent in the Cariboo.
Vancouver Island's job recovery rate is 104.1 per cent, followed by the Kootenays at 102.3, the Lower Mainland at 102, Vancouver at 101.3 and North Coast-Nechako at 100.7.
Still, the minister noted there is more work to be done.
"Many people and businesses are still struggling with the impacts of the pandemic," he said.
With files from The Canadian Press
To view B.C. data in the embedded graphic below, select the province from the map. View a larger version of this interactive element on StatCan's website.