VICTORIA -- B.C. continues to see a rise in unemployment amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but signs of recovery are beginning to appear as the province enters the second phase of its restart plan, according to B.C. Finance Minister Carole James.

B.C.’s unemployment rate climbed to 13.4 per cent in May, up from 11.5 per cent in April.

According to Statistics Canada’s most recent labour survey, B.C. lost 353,000 jobs since the pandemic began.

Young workers have been hardest hit by the pandemic, with youth unemployment rates reaching roughly 28.7 per cent.

Out of the 353,000 jobs lost in the province, roughly 115,000 of those were positions held by young people.

James says that youth have been particularly impacted because youth make up a high proportion of the workforce in industries that have been hamstrung by the pandemic.

James says that the food service industry, accommodations industry, retail, and wholesale sectors have “led all other trades” in the number of jobs lost during the pandemic.

However, with B.C. now weeks into the second phase of its restart plan, James says that businesses are beginning “to see some glimmers of increased confidence” from consumers.

The finance minister says that business must continue to develop their health and safety plans to ensure that customers feel safe visiting their businesses.

Since the pandemic began, more than 521,000 people have applied for B.C.’s Emergency Benefit for Workers, a one-time payment of $1,000 for British Columbians whose work has been impacted by the pandemic.

The roughly $521 million dispersed through the program is a top-up of federal support programs.

On Monday, James said that she expected unemployment numbers to remain bleak until later this summer, when labour information would begin better reflect B.C.’s restart efforts.

“I don’t think you’ll start seeing the restart data until August and July,” said James at the time.

For now, the finance minister says that the B.C. government is focused on restarting the economy in a “careful and planned and safe way.”

She added that the provincial government was aware of its responsibility to weighing public safety with the needs of individuals and businesses.

“We have to remember those numbers are families, are individuals, are business that are struggling and continue to struggle as we go through our recovery,” she said.