British Columbia

B.C. lost 132,000 jobs in one week as the pandemic hit the economy

B.C. Finance Minister Carole James says 132,000 jobs were lost in the province due to the COVID-19 pandemic, pushing the unemployment rate over seven per cent.

'I do believe we're going to see tougher numbers coming,' finance minister says

In March, B.C. Finance minister Carole James announced a $5-billion economic relief plan to support families, businesses and economic recovery in response to COVID-19. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an immediate impact on British Columbia's economy, resulting in 132,000 lost jobs in one week last month and pushing the unemployment rate over seven per cent, Finance Minister Carole James said Thursday.

James said Statistics Canada Labour Force numbers for March reflect the start of the pandemic's arrival in B.C. and she expects worse results for April.

B.C.'s jobless rate rose to 7.2 per cent from five per cent in March.

"These are early indicators. I do believe we're going to see tougher numbers coming,'' James said at a news conference.

She said the statistics cover the period from March 15 to March 21 when the pandemic started taking hold in B.C. and businesses began laying off workers or closing.

"This is a difficult time for our families, our province and our country,'' said James. "All of us are seeing every day the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is having and the serious impact it's having on people and economies around the world. It's no exception in B.C.''

Statistics Canada reported the COVID-19 crisis cost more than one million jobs across the country last month, pushing the unemployment rate to 7.8 per cent.

Economic action plan for B.C.

James said B.C.'s $5-billion action plan to help workers, families and businesses during the pandemic builds on the federal government's business subsidies and loans.

The B.C. plan includes $1.5 billion to help recovery efforts, but it's too early to forecast a rebound, she said.

"I don't have a crystal ball,'' James said. "No one can really predict when we're going to see that kind of turnaround. As I've said, our best efforts are to follow the public health advice that's coming to make sure we're doing everything we can.''

B.C. public health officials say physical distancing, frequent hand washing and self-isolating if feeling sick are proven methods to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The COVID-19 prevention plan also requires travellers returning to B.C. from abroad to provide officials with a written plan on how they'll self-isolate for 14 days or they will face quarantine.

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