Growth in British Columbia's manufacturing sectors and investment from and trade with Asia were behind an increase of 3,600 jobs in June over the previous month, says the minister of jobs, tourism and innovation.

Statistics Canada released new figures Friday showing B.C.'s unemployment rate slid to 6.6 per cent in June from 7.4 per cent in May.

Jobs Minister Pat Bell credits the employment boost to growth in the forestry, mining and energy sectors.

While trade and investment with Asia has become a two-way street, Bell said B.C. must continue to develop the right trade strategies so its competitors don't surpass the province.

"Australia is a primary competitor for us in that market in resources and minerals and liquefied natural gas," said Bell. "Qatar is a major competitor for us. The United States has turned its mind to the Chinese and Indian markets.

"So we have to outperform all of those jurisdictions. And I think that if we are smart, if we take advantage of it, if we get early into the Chinese and Indian markets we can do very well."

Trade picture shifting

While the United States remains B.C.'s largest trading partner, the combined Asian economies of Japan and China have now surpassed our neighbours to the south.

"I think we're well positioned with the work that we have done in China and India. India is a brand new market really for us and just starting to grow. Japan, Korea, those economies continue to grow. And if the United States sees a little bit of recovery, again, I think B.C. is well positioned."

When it comes to tourism, B.C. is also seeing an increase in visitors from China, said Bell.

The province saw an 18 per cent jump in the number of tourists from China last year, and now about 200,000 Chinese visit the province annually, said Bell.

The B.C. New Democrats have a different take on the jobless figures.

NDP MLA Shane Simpson said the labour force in B.C. last month shrank by nearly 18,000 people.

"If that's the case — and that's what the numbers are telling us — it's very problematic. It tells us that people have lost confidence, that they don't have hope that their needs can be met in British Columbia right now to find employment for themselves and their families."

The chief economist for the Central One Credit Union, Helmut Pastrick, is cautious about reading too much into the figures.

He said it may simply reflect small sample sizes and that, overall, B.C. is experiencing modest job growth.

With files from the CBC's Jeff Davies