B.C. jobs: Little change to unemployment rate in 2nd reflection of COVID-19 circuit breaker

The Vancouver skyline and large freighters are seen through the heat rising off the water of English Bay, B.C. May 14, 2012. (Jonathan Hayward/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

B.C.'s unemployment rate decreased very slightly in May even as the province was still navigating its COVID-19 circuit breaker.

According to Statistics Canada's monthly labour force survey released Friday, B.C.'s unemployment rate was at seven per cent in May, down slightly from April's rate of 7.1. The month before that, the unemployment rate was 6.9 per cent.

These job figures are the second reflection of restrictions placed on restaurants and adult fitness programs on March 30, limiting their operation. April saw the first unemployment increase since January, a change that B.C.'s jobs minister said at the time showed the impacts of public health orders meant to curb the spread of COVID-19. 

While restrictions began to slowly lift on May 25, the labour survey from that month took place between May 9 to May 15.

"These job numbers reflect the difficult situation many businesses were in just a couple weeks ago when the circuit breaker restrictions were still in effect," B.C.'s jobs minster, Ravi Kahlon, said Friday. "While these numbers show that we have a lot of work to do, we're well-positioned to have a strong economic recovery."

Nationwide, the unemployment rate also stayed fairly steady, climbing just slightly to 8.2 per cent from 8.1. Overall, the Canadian economy lost 68,000 jobs in April.

In B.C., 23,200 part-time jobs were lost, but 21,300 full-time jobs were gained.

More locally, four B.C. cities also saw minor increases in unemployment in May.

In Vancouver, unemployment rose from 7.4 per cent to 7.5 while in Victoria, the rate rose from 6.2 to 6.3, the labour force survey says.

In Abbotsford-Mission, the unemployment rate also rose very slightly, moving from 5.5 per cent in April to 5.6 in May.

Kelowna's rate increased from 5.7 per cent to 5.8.

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 declining dramatically in B.C., the latest unemployment figures from May 9 to 15 were when the rolling seven-day average ranged between 650 to 565. As of Thursday, it had fallen to 229.