British Columbia

B.C. has lost more than 353,000 jobs since pandemic began

B.C. Finance Minister Carole James said more than 353,000 jobs have been lost provincewide since the pandemic began, with more than 30 per cent of those losses affecting young people.

Provincial unemployment rate rose to 13.4% in May, StatsCan data shows

A server places a drink on a customers' table while they eat at Local restaurant in Vancouver on May 29, 2020. The food service industry has been one of the industries most affected by the pandemic. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

B.C. Finance Minister Carole James said more than 353,000 jobs have been lost provincewide since the pandemic began, with more than 30 per cent of those losses affecting young people.

James said Friday the province's youth unemployment rates reached roughly 28.7 per cent last month. The minister said young people have been "severely impacted" during the pandemic because they work in the industries hardest hit by the economic slowdown: accommodation, food service, wholesale and retail.

"Those sectors still continue to lead all other industries in job losses, making up 46 per cent of the total jobs lost," James said Friday.

"We have to remember that those numbers are families. They're individuals. They're small businesses who have struggled and continue to struggle as we move into recovery."

Around 115,000 of the 353,000 positions lost in B.C. in recent months were jobs held by young people.

B.C. Finance Minister Carole James during an announcement in Victoria on June 1. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

Statistics Canada said Friday unemployment rate in B.C. rose 1.9 percentage points to 13.4 per cent, up from 11.5 per cent in April.

B.C. did gain 43,300 jobs back in May, James said. The provincial government began easing public health restrictions last month, leading businesses to reopen and more people into the job hunt. 

"I think we see some glimmers of hope ... when you see the number of jobs that actually were created. It doesn't touch the loss of jobs, the huge number of loss of jobs over this time period, but I think it does show that you're starting to see some confidence in the economy," said James.

"In the coming months, we hope to see more positive results as our economic recovery starts to take shape.

Customers have their nails manicured through acrylic safety panels by an esthetician at Stanley’s Nail Salon in Burnaby, B.C., on May 19 — the day B.C. entered Phase 2 of its pandemic response. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

James noted more than 521,000 people have applied for B.C.'s Emergency Benefit for Workers since applications opened on May 1. The benefit provides a one-time payment of $1,000 for residents whose work has been impacted by the pandemic.

Statistics Canada said the national unemployment rate in May rose to 13.7 per cent, the highest level in more than 40 years of comparable data. The previous record of 13.1 per cent was set in December 1982.

The agency said Canada's economy added 290,000 jobs in May, replacing about 10 per cent of the jobs it lost to COVID-19.

The monthly labour force survey showed that men gained back more jobs than women last month, resulting in a wider gender gap in employment losses as a result of COVID-19, and that the pandemic continued to disproportionately affect lower-wage workers.

With files from The Canadian Press

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