B.C. jobs: Unemployment rate drops as COVID-19 restrictions lift

The unemployment rate dropped slightly in June as COVID-19 restrictions were lifting in the province.

According to Statistics Canada's monthly labour force survey, released Friday, B.C.'s unemployment rate was at 6.6 per cent in June, down from May's rate of seven per cent. The month before that, the unemployment rate was 7.1 per cent.

"This jobs report was definitely good news for BC," says Ravi Kahlon, B.C.’s Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation.

The latest job figures may be a reflection of B.C.'s COVID-19 recovery. Some restrictions were lifted on May 25 and more were taken away on June 15. The most recent labour force survey took place between June 13 and 19.

"No doubt, there's more work to do,” says Kahlon. “We're seeing some parts of the economy do very well and of course hospitality and tourism continue to face some challenges as we continue to open up, but this is positive news where the economy is heading and we're going to continue to work to ensure that this trend line continues in a positive way."

With the drop in unemployment comes a dose of reality. The bulk of B.C.’s success is on the back of part-time work. The province actually shed 8,700 full-time positions in the last month.

"Business is better, but it's nowhere near what we're used to," says John Nicholson, vice president of hotels and restaurants for the Listel Hospitality Group.

"We're going to run probably 25 per cent of the revenues we would normally run."

At the Listel Hotel on Robson Street in downtown Vancouver, Nicholson is looking for a more detailed plan to get more people back to work.

"We're having a difficult time; our industry is having a difficult time," says Nicholson. "It needs to be a long-term plan that opens up the province so that we can hire full-time people, not just part-time people, full-time people, back to their positions. Robson Street is not what it used to be."

Nationwide, the unemployment rate also dropped slightly, falling to 7.8 per cent from 8.2.

More locally, two areas of B.C. saw increases in their unemployment rates.

Kelowna's rate rose from 5.8 per cent to 6.3 in June. The Abbotsford-Mission census subdivision increased slightly from 5.6 to 5.7.

Meanwhile, Vancouver's rate stayed steady at 7.5 per cent. Victoria, however, saw its rate drop nearly a full percentage point from 6.3 per cent to 5.4.

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. Unemployment gradually decreased as businesses reopened in the spring and summer.

Daily COVID-19 case counts have declined dramatically in B.C., and the latest unemployment figures from June 13 to 19 were when the rolling seven-day average ranged between 120 to 100. As of Thursday, it had fallen to 41.