British Columbia

New race-based unemployment data show higher rates for Black, Arab and South Asian Canadians

Statistics Canada released the latest unemployment data for July on Friday, and B.C.’s labour minister says the release draws a more comprehensive picture.

B.C. Minister Michelle Mungall says latest job numbers paint a fuller picture than previous reports

The latest job numbers released Friday by Statistics Canada suggests that some people of colour are more likely to be out of work compared to the rest of Canada as COVID-19-related restrictions are continuing to ease. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

Black, South Asian and Arab people are experiencing disproportionately high rates of unemployment compared to the rest of the population in Canada, according to the first Statistics Canada job data broken down by race. 

Statistics Canada released the job numbers for July on Friday, and B.C.'s labour minister says it draws a more comprehensive picture than previous reports. 

"For the first time, Statistics Canada has included race-based data in its monthly survey, which will help provide a fuller picture of who's being impacted by changes in the job market," Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Competitiveness Michelle Mungall said in an online statement.

In B.C., the number of people with jobs crept up three percentage points, reaching 93.5 per cent of the February employment level, according to the release. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate fell to 11.1 per cent from 13 per cent as more people found work. 

Historic snapshot

A new survey question asked respondents aged 15 to 69 to report the population groups to which they belong. 

Several groups had rates of joblessness that were much higher than the national unemployment rate — which was 9.3 per cent in July for those who did not identify as a "visible minority" or "Aboriginal" — compared to South Asian (17.8 per cent), Arab (17.3 per cent), and Black (16.8 per cent) people in Canada.

The national jobless rate has been going down from 13.7 per cent across the country in May — the highest rate recorded since comparable data became available. Before the COVID-19 economic shutdown, the rate was 5.6 per cent in February.

Customers lineup outside of a TD bank in downtown Vancouver in April. Working has changed in Canada during the pandemic. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

In a joint statement by Employment Social Development Canada, three federal ministers call this July snapshot of the labour market conditions a "historic moment" in data collection.

"Understanding how this pandemic is affecting Canadians from different backgrounds is a critical first step towards addressing inequity in our labour force. We know that the best decisions are based on the most inclusive data, and our government will continue to monitor and track how this situation is impacting Canadians from all walks of life," reads the statement.

'Still a lot of people without their jobs'

Mungall said the latest statistical breakdown will help provide a fuller picture of who is impacted by changes in the job market, as more businesses in some of the hardest hit sectors reopen their doors and bring back workers on a part-time basis.

Mungall said 58 per cent of jobs lost in March and April have returned in B.C. The minister said the number of jobs in wholesale and retail trade, along with food services and accommodation, went up by 48,300 in July.

"What we've seen over the last three months I anticipate we'll continue to see, which is businesses reopening their doors, jobs coming back on line and people getting back to work," she said.

"These numbers are a good trend forward … but we also have to keep in mind that there's still a lot of people without their jobs and so we have to remember them," she said.

With files from Yvette Brend