Times Colonist

Greater Vic­to­ria job­less rate up again

- AN­DREW A. DUFFY

Greater Vic­to­ria’s un­em­ploy­ment rate in­creased for the fifth straight month in July as it hit 11.1 per cent last month ac­cord­ing to numbers re­leased by Statis­tics Canada Fri­day.

The monthly labour force sur­vey showed the re­gion added 5,200 jobs last month, but the to­tal labour force in­creased by 6,500 at the same time, lead­ing to a slight in­crease in the un­em­ploy­ment rate. The un­em­ploy­ment rate was 11 per cent in June.

The rate has climbed since Fe­bru­ary, when it was 3.2 per cent, as the eco­nomic ef­fects of the pan­demic took hold.

The rate jumped from 4.6 per cent in March to 7.2 in April and then to 10 per cent in May.

Provin­cial Min­is­ter of Jobs Michelle Mun­gall fo­cused on the pos­i­tive Fri­day as she noted the prov­ince’s eco­nomic restart plan has started to trans­late into jobs.

The prov­ince cre­ated 70,200 jobs last month, mean­ing when added to gains in June the econ­omy has re­cov­ered about 58 per cent of the jobs lost to the pan­demic in April and May.

The prov­ince es­ti­mates it has lost 164,900 jobs since the start of the pan­demic.

“B.C.’s restart plan con­tin­ues to cre­ate pos­i­tive signs for our econ­omy, but we still have a long way to go as we build a strong re­cov­ery,” Mun­gall said. “This month saw sig­nif­i­cant job gains in some of the hard­est hit sec­tors as more and more busi­nesses re­open their doors. Whole­sale and re­tail trade, along with food ser­vices and ac­com­mo­da­tion, in­creased by 48,300 jobs in July.”

Re­cov­ery has been slow to come to some parts of the econ­omy, and the dec­i­mated tourism in­dus­try warns there is more bad news on the hori­zon.

“I ex­pect to see hun­dreds of ter­mi­na­tions from our ma­jor em­ploy­ers, par­tic­u­larly on the man­age­ment side, ahead of the Aug. 30 ex­ten­sion of the tem­po­rary lay­off pro­vi­sions,” said Des­ti­na­tion Greater Vic­to­ria chief ex­ec­u­tive Paul Nursey.

He said the re­gion’s tourism in­dus­try, hit hard by bor­der clo­sures, tight fi­nances and di­rec­tives to stick close to home due to the pan­demic, has re­bounded by 30 or 40 per cent, but it is braced for a tough off-sea­son.

“Yeah, we’re see­ing some re­cov­ery but ev­ery­one is pre­par­ing to hun­ker down and get through the win­ter and those very dif­fi­cult lay­off de­ci­sions are start­ing to hap­pen now,” he said.

The prov­ince agreed to ex­tend tem­po­rary lay­off pro­vi­sions un­til the end of Au­gust to al­low em­ploy­ers and em­ploy­ees to work out agree­ments dur­ing the pan­demic while still pro­tect­ing a worker’s right to re­ceive sev­er­ance pay.

One of Vic­to­ria’s other large em­ploy­ers, the con­struc­tion in­dus­try, faces a dif­fer­ent prob­lem — a lack of skilled trades.

Rory Kul­mala, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Van­cou­ver Is­land Con­struc­tion As­so­ci­a­tion, said af­ter ini­tial ad­just­ments were made at work sites around the Is­land when the pan­demic hit, con­struc­tion crews re­ally didn’t skip a beat.

“It’s been steady. Pre-COVID19 we were rid­ing strong in­er­tia of con­struc­tion and were ex­pect­ing a ban­ner year, and for the most part we are still go­ing gang­busters,” he said, not­ing there are cranes dot­ting the lower Is­land and new projects still com­ing on line.

But labour is still an is­sue as the coun­try, pre-COVID, had been deal­ing with a large seg­ment of the work­force re­tir­ing and not enough skilled workers com­ing along to fill the void. Kul­mala said that hasn’t changed, and they are also deal­ing with some gen­eral labour­ers pre­fer­ring to stick with CERB in­stead of re­turn­ing to the work site. “Even if there was less work, we’re still do­ing it with less people,” Kul­mala said. “The de­mand is still there.”

There was some good eco­nomic news across the coun­try as well Fri­day with the na­tional labour mar­ket gain­ing 419,000 jobs last month as more parts of the econ­omy were al­lowed to re­open.

The na­tional un­em­ploy­ment rate was 10.9 per cent in July, down from the 12.3 per cent recorded in June and slid­ing fur­ther away from the record-high 13.7 per cent in May.

But un­der­neath the fig­ures there was new data about the un­equal im­pact of the his­toric shifts in the work­force as the statis­tics agency re­ported that rates were much higher than av­er­age for vis­i­ble-mi­nor­ity workers.

South Asian, Arab and Black workers had sea­son­ally un­ad­justed un­em­ploy­ment rates of 17 per cent or more, with rates even higher for women than men, com­pared with a rate of 9.3 per cent for people not iden­ti­fied as ei­ther a vis­i­ble mi­nor­ity or Indigenous.

 ??  ?? Vic­to­ria’s In­ner Har­bour on Fri­day. The cap­i­tal re­gion’s tourist in­dus­try would nor­mally be at its busiest time, but is feel­ing the ef­fects of bor­der clo­sures, tight fi­nances and di­rec­tives to stick close to home due to the pan­demic.
Vic­to­ria’s In­ner Har­bour on Fri­day. The cap­i­tal re­gion’s tourist in­dus­try would nor­mally be at its busiest time, but is feel­ing the ef­fects of bor­der clo­sures, tight fi­nances and di­rec­tives to stick close to home due to the pan­demic.

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