The province’s economy lost 43,000 jobs in April, according to Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey.
The job losses are largely impacts of the provincial health officer’s temporary orders were felt by businesses and workers, said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Jobs, Economy, Recovery, and Innovation.
“The decline in April follows 11 consecutive months of job gains. B.C. currently leads all major provinces in job recovery,” he said in a statement issued Friday. “The vast majority of the job losses last month were part time and in accommodation and food services, as well as information, culture and recreation. These sectors were directly impacted by Dr. Bonnie Henry’s health orders, known as the ‘circuit breaker,’ designed to bend the curve of B.C.’s third wave.”
Knowing these new orders would present hardships for many businesses, Victoria put in place the Circuit Breaker Business Relief Grant, which provides financial support of up to $20,000 for impacted operators, he said adding additional support measures were also given for the restaurant sector.
“There is more than $125 million available in the Circuit Breaker Business Relief Grant,” Kahlon said. “This funding will support 20,000 businesses and help them cover costs such as rent and wages for their employees. This grant is one of many supports available to businesses. Overall, the B.C. government has provided, per capita, the most support for people, businesses and communities in the country.”
He said that while April was a difficult month for many, the province is seeing positive signs this will only be a temporary setback, pointing to the announcement last week that B.C. has secured a new icebreaker shipbuilding contract, as well as recent expansion announcements by companies such as Amazon and Microsoft, creating thousands of new jobs.
The opposition Liberals, however, are urging the government to put forward a strategic private sector jobs plan to help businesses and employees in need.
Numbers released by Statistics Canada show that B.C.’s unemployment rate rose to 7.1 per cent, erasing two months’ worth of job gains as employment fell for the first time in a year. There are still 23,200 fewer British Columbians working today than in February 2020, according to the Liberals.
The labour underutilization rate — a measure of hidden unemployment which includes people who have given up looking for work or have worked fewer hours or shifts — stands at 10.3 per cent.
“B.C. is losing not only jobs but competitiveness to other jurisdictions,” said Todd Stone, BC Liberal Critic for Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation. “Saskatchewan has released a clear Re-Opening Roadmap with guidelines of what people and businesses can expect in three phases — why is B.C. falling behind? Our circumstances might be different, but we all need a vision and a plan to rebound from the pandemic.
“B.C.’s massive increase in the size of government — 100,000 more public sector jobs since 2017 — and the reliance on part-time jobs are simply unsustainable. People need full-time jobs to look after their families. Despite John Horgan’s rhetoric, B.C. is not spending the most in Canada on direct relief and grant programs for business. While B.C. is spending $83 per person on direct business grants, Ontario is spending $261 per capita – three times that of B.C. Adding insult to injury is the fact that B.C. can’t seem to figure out how to get money out the door to many struggling businesses.”
The hard-hit tourism sector, which includes accommodation and food services sector is down 68,400 jobs since February 2020, said Stone. Alarming stats from the latest BC Hotel Association Pulse Check showed that 47 per cent of members still can’t access the business recovery grant, and 40 per cent will close permanently without immediate support.
“The NDP must provide relief on fixed costs and implement remaining Tourism Task Force recommendations to help this struggling sector,” said Teresa Wat, BC Liberal Critic for Tourism, Arts and Culture. “Sixty per cent of employees in this sector are women and forty per cent are millennials. They continue to be disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and can’t afford more NDP delays.”