B.C. service industries hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic are showing the strongest signs of recovery, Finance Minister Carole James says.
The official unemployment rate for B.C. remains at 13 per cent based on Statistics Canada totals for June, but that is partly due to more people having the confidence to look for work as the B.C. economy reopens, James said July 10. Youth unemployment is up slightly to 29 per cent, another sign of job seekers coming back in the hardest-hit areas of the economy.
Statistics show 118,000 additional jobs in B.C. from May to June, with half of those in the accommodation and food service industries that were directly affected by COVID-19 health orders. It’s an encouraging start, but net job losses for B.C. since the pandemic restrictions began remain at 235,000, James said.
“I think it’s a good sign that you’re seeing that 50 per cent increase in jobs coming from those sectors,” James told reporters in a broadcast from the B.C. legislature. “We’re starting to see, as we encourage British Columbians to safely and cautiously travel within the province … They’re providing support to accommodation. I know that the Okanagan is talking about how busy they are this summer.”
Ken Peacock, chief economist for the Business Council of B.C., said the June employment numbers are a pleasant surprise, with the first full month of the province’s restart bringing almost triple the employment increase seen in May. But of the 118,000 new jobs, 102,000 were part-time.
“Now it’s not surprising that companies are rehiring people on a part-time basis rather than jumping into full-time hours,” Peacock said in an interview with Black Press Media. “And also when you look at the sectors that were hit, you see more part-time in food services, accommodation services, some of the tourism activities.”
The one area that continues to see declines is manufacturing, which Peacock said is an indication of B.C.’s export economy in a global pandemic.
“We know our forest products sector is hurting, mining activity is probably being dampened as we speak because of the global slowdown, so I’m going to be watching that manufacturing number and some of the export elements closely in the next few months,” Peacock said.