B.C. Finance Minister Carole James explains eligibility for the province’s one-time $1,000 worker relief payment in a TV broadcast from the B.C. legislature, May 1, 2020. (Hansard TV)

COVID-19: B.C. unemployment rate more than doubles in April

More than 400,000 applied for B.C. emergency benefit

The full force of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions has cost the B.C. economy almost 400,000 jobs since they came into effect in mid-March, Finance Minister Carole James says.

That’s the same number of people who have applied for a one-time emergency benefit of $1,000, James said May 8 after Statistics Canada’s monthly labour force survey came out.

“This is an incredible jump from before the pandemic, when our unemployment rate was just five per cent, leading the country,” James said.

The labour force survey’s B.C. numbers show nearly half of the job losses in retail, wholesale and food services. Officially, B.C.’s April unemployment rate is 11.5 per cent, but it does not include the number of people who stopped looking for work in April as businesses wound down or remained closed, with widespread layoffs.

James said the gradual reopening of businesses announced this week is “a light at the end of the tunnel” for the province, but things could still get worse before they begin to rebound. The B.C. government got approval for a $5 billion pandemic relief fund in a brief sitting of the B.C. legislature in March, and $1.5 billion of that is set aside to help revive the economy.

RELATED: Ottawa extends COVID-19 wage subsidy program

RELATED: B.C. business restart up to managers, customers

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson called on James and Premier John Horgan this week to provide a two-month tax holiday on provincial sales tax for businesses as they look for ways to reopen and rehire laid-off employees. James said the government’s policy of letting businesses defer those tax payments until October remains in effect, but she is considering that and other ideas as business activity is tracked into this summer.

Statistics Canada reported May 8 that B.C. lost 264,100 jobs in April, when COVID-19 restrictions on movement and business were in force for the first entire month. Nationally, the unemployment rate for April would have been 17.8 per cent if the agency’s labour force survey had counted the estimated 1.1 million people who stopped looking for work because the pandemic shutdowns limited job opportunities.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Column: One parenting book certainly doesn’t fit all

Like the fingerprints they are born with – each child is different.… Continue reading

Ryga Arts Festival to include virtual and in-person events

Arts festival in Summerland will run from Aug. 15 to 23

Okanagan and Shuswap MPs want federal funds to help stop invasive species

Concerns raised that spending favours Eastern Canada.

Summerland Ornamental Gardens remain closed

Staff and volunteers continue to weed and maintain plants

Canada’s deficit result of investing in Canadians: Minister of Middle-Class Prosperity

Minister Mona Fortier said the government is working on the next steps as the economy restarts

COVID-19: Homeless to be relocated from temporary Okanagan shelter

Homeless shelters in Vernon have been combined into one site at the curling rink since April

Dozens of fish die at popular lake near Chase

A few natural phenomena are possible causes for their deaths.

Amber Alert for two Quebec girls cancelled after bodies found

Romy Carpentier, 6, Norah Carpentier, 11, and their father, Martin Carpentier, missing since Wednesday

B.C. man prepares to be first to receive double-hand transplant in Canada

After the surgery, transplant patients face a long recovery

Grocers appear before MPs to explain decision to cut pandemic pay

Executives from three of Canada’s largest grocery chains have defended their decision to end temporary wage increases

Bringing support to Indigenous students and communities, while fulfilling a dream

Mitacs is a nonprofit organization that operates research and training programs

RCMP ‘disappointed’ by talk that race a factor in quiet Rideau Hall arrest

Corey Hurren, who is from Manitoba, is facing 22 charges

NHL’s Canadian hubs offer little economic benefit, but morale boost is valuable: experts

Games are slated to start Aug. 1 with six Canadian teams qualifying for the 24-team resumption of play

Most Read