VANCOUVER -- While COVID-19 cases surge in B.C., the province's unemployment rate is staying steady.

According to Statistics Canada's monthly labour force survey released Friday, B.C.'s unemployment rate was at 6.9 per cent in March – unchanged from the month before. In January, the unemployment rate was eight per cent.

Nationwide, the unemployment rate decreased 0.7 percentage points to 7.5 per cent, which is a low for the country during the pandemic. 

More locally, some B.C. cities saw increases in unemployment in January, while two saw a decrease.

In Vancouver, unemployment increased slightly from 7.9 per cent to eight. In Victoria, the rate rose from 4.9 per cent to 5.7, the labour force survey says.

In Abbotsford-Mission, the unemployment rate improved, moving from 7.4 per cent in February to 6.3 in March.

Kelowna's rate dipped slightly from 5.2 per cent to five.

When the pandemic first hit last year, the unemployment rate rose significantly in the province, reaching a high of 13.4 per cent in May. At the time, officials connected that high figure to economic slowdown from the province's COVID-19 response, and it gradually decreased as businesses reopened in the spring and summer.

While daily COVID-19 case counts are increasing in B.C., the latest unemployment figures are a snapshot from March 14 to March 20, when the rolling seven-day average was at around 600. As of Friday, that average was over 1,000.

As a result, the latest job figures don't reflect any impact that may be felt from the three-week health order placed on restaurants and adult fitness programs, limiting their operation. Those came into effect on March 30.

However, the province announced new funding Thursday to help businesses during that temporary restriction. Businesses in the province can apply for up to $10,000 to help cover costs like rent, insurance, wages, maintenance, utilities or any surprise costs that came up because of the latest health order. 

In February 2020 – before a state of emergency was declared in the province – B.C.'s unemployment rate was five per cent. 

With files from The Canadian Press