VANCOUVER -- For the first time since B.C. entered its record-breaking state of emergency, the province's unemployment rate fell compared to the month before.

According to Statistics Canada's monthly labour force survey released Friday, B.C.'s unemployment rate was at 13 per cent in June – down from 13.4 per cent the month before. Nationwide, the rate was 12.3 per cent, down from 13.7.

The survey results were gathered from June 14 to 20, which Finance Minister Carole James said was "right in the middle of (B.C.'s) gradual economic reopening."

"The data released today for British Columbians paints a picture of cautious optimism with a long road ahead of us," James said Friday morning.

"We continue to see positive signs as a result of B.C.'s restart plan."

B.C. has been in a state of emergency because of the COVID-19 pandemic since mid-March. 

But things are starting to improve in the province's economy and James said more than 118,000 people found jobs last month. She also said the employment gains made in both May and June brought back about 40 per cent of the total job losses seen since February. 

"So no question these numbers are encouraging, but as I said, we have a long road to go," James said, adding that thousands of B.C. residents and businesses are still struggling.

"The total net job loss since the start of the pandemic stands at 235,000 … while that's a large number, those are people, those are families, those are individuals in communities."

In May, Canada reported a record-high unemployment rate, but also saw signs of recovery in June. 

More locally, however, at least four B.C. cities saw their unemployment rates go up in June.  

  • Vancouver 13.1 per cent (up from 10.7)
  • Kelowna 10.2 per cent (up from 9.6)
  • Abbotsford-Mission 8.8 per cent (up from 7.5)
  • Victoria 11 per cent (up from 10.1)

James said "there's no question" that these increased unemployment rates in some cities is because of the challenges facing service and tourist sectors.

"You would, by now in Vancouver and in Victoria, be seeing cruise ships coming in, seeing passengers unload, be seeing people through the downtown core," she said. "And that's just not possible."  

Services sector, youth hit hardest

James said B.C.'s services sector continues to be the hardest hit since the start of the pandemic.

However, with businesses reopening in the province's restart, she said this sector has also seen significant job gains recently. 

"In fact, the accommodation and food services sector accounts for 50 per cent of this month's gain in jobs," she said.

James also said youth are still seeing a significant unemployment rate in the province at 29.1 per cent, which is slightly higher than it was in May.

Moving ahead, James said following provincial health orders and guidelines remains important. 

"We need to stay focused on our restart plan, doing it in a responsible way so we can see more and more businesses reopen," James said. 

"The best recovery for our economy is making sure that we continue to fight COVID-19."