B.C. finance minister calls job losses 'staggering,' as unemployment hits 11.5%
VICTORIA -- "Staggering," "unprecedented "and "incredible" were the words British Columbia's finance minister used – and used often – to describe the province's latest unemployment numbers Friday.
Job losses doubled in B.C. between March and April as the province's unemployment rate reached 11.5 per cent, according to Statistics Canada's monthly labour survey report.
The latest jobless rate represents "an incredible jump" from 7.2 per cent in March, B.C. Finance Minister Carole James said, as the economic fallout from the novel coronavirus continues
In total, B.C. lost 264,100 jobs in April, doubling March's loss of 132,000 jobs and bringing the two-month economic tally of COVID-19 to approximately 400,000 British Columbians out of work.
"As predicted, today's data shows a staggering number of people are feeling the economic impact of COVID-19," James told reporters from the B.C. legislature in Victoria.
"We use the word 'unprecedented' a lot, but it's hard to find another descriptor."
Half of the jobs lost were in the food services and retail sectors, where workers often earn minimum wage or supplement their wages with tips.
The B.C. government plans to increase the minimum wage on June 1 from $13.85 to $14.60, a plan that hasn't changed in light of COVID-19.
"The minimum wage hike will move ahead," James said.
Nearly two million jobs were lost across the country in April, following the more than one million that were lost in March. Across Canada, the jobless rate hit 13 per cent in April, up from 7.8 per cent in March, according to Statistics Canada.
Victoria’s unemployment rate rose in April to 7.2 per cent from 4.6 per cent in March, while Vancouver’s rose to 7.5 per cent from 5.3.
B.C. has committed $1.5 billion to support economic recovery efforts in the province, but few details about the plan have been announced.
"I expect you'll see that work go on over the summer," James said. "Is this the worst of it?" she added, "I certainly don’t have a crystal ball, I'm afraid."
Approximately 400,000 British Columbians have applied for the province's COVID-19 emergency employment benefit, according to the finance ministry.
"I think we've got a hard road ahead," James added. "I don’t want to sugarcoat this."