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

B.C. government eyes antlerless moose harvest increase in bid to save caribou

Antlerless moose hunts reduce predation for threatened mountain caribou, says ministry

City pre-approves temporary expanded service areas for all liquor primary and manufacturer establishments

The initiative will support businesses required to be at 50 per cent capacity due to COVID-19

UPDATE: Williams Lake RCMP suspend search overnight for suspect on the run

Public asked to keep eye out for suspicous activity

The Quesnel Business Support Team is seeking feedback from local business community

‘What is the biggest challenge facing your business today?’

If Trudeau won’t stand up to Trump, how will regular people: Singh

Trudeau did not directly answer a question about Trump’s actions amid protests

Murder charge upgraded in George Floyd case, 3 other cops charged

Floyd’s family and protesters have repeatedly called for criminal charges against all four officers

As two B.C. offices see outbreaks, Dr. Henry warns tests don’t replace other measures

Physical distancing, PPE and sanitizing remain key to reduce COVID-19 spread

Young killer whale untangles itself from trap line off Nanaimo shore

DFO marine mammal rescue unit was en route as whale broke free from prawn trap line

Racist incident shocks Vancouver Island First Nation

Port Alberni RCMP investigating after video shows truck wheeling through Tseshaht territory

Vancouver Island school principal mourns brother, cousin killed during U.S. protests

Jelks says he’s grateful for the outpouring of support from the community in the wake of this tragedy

Bank of Canada keeps key interest rate target on hold at 0.25%

Central bank now expects GDP to decline between 10 and 20 per cent compared with the fourth quarter of 2019

RCMP, coroner investigate murder-suicide on Salt Spring Island

Two dead, police say there is no risk to the public

B.C. schools see 30% of expected enrolment as in-class teaching restarts amid pandemic

Education minister noted that in-class instruction remains optional

Most Read