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Coronavirus: More than 130,000 jobs disappeared in B.C. last month

B.C. job loses soar in March amid pandemic business closures
More than a million Canadians lost their jobs in March as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic hammered businesses from coast to coast. The unemployment rate soared to levels not seen in over 7 years, and as Jennifer Palma reports, the province is warning the outlook for April is worse.

The B.C. economy lost 132,000 jobs in March, the largest single month drop since Statistics Canada started tracking that number, sending the unemployment rate up to 7.2 per cent amid the COVID-19 crisis.

“These aren’t simply numbers They represent individuals, they represent families and they represent businesses in our province who are struggling right now,” Finance Minister Carole James said Friday.

“And we know in fact that this is not the entire picture. We know there are thousands of British Columbians who are out of work and would be seeking work right now but are hampered in their efforts for various reasons related to the pandemic.”

READ MORE: 121K B.C. hospitality workers off the job, 28% of restaurants risk going under: survey

And next month’s labour force survey will likely be worse, she said, in the aftermath of the province’s declaration of a state of emergency on March 15.

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All sectors in B.C. have been hit hard by the novel coronavirus pandemic, especially hotels, restaurants and tourism, and James said she doesn’t expect it to get any easier.

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The wholesale and retail trade sector lost 40,100 jobs last month, accommodation and food services, including restaurants and hotels, lost 36,400 jobs and information, culture and recreation lost 16,800 jobs including arts, recreation and sporting events.

“I don’t have a crystal ball. No one can predict when we will see a turnaround.

Application process opens for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit
Application process opens for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit

The B.C. government has put in place a number of measures to address the impact of job losses.

The programs include the $1,000 B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers, financial relief for renters, a three-month credit for affected BC Hydro customers, as well deferment of taxes for businesses, and cutting the school property tax by 50 per cent.

The government has also launched an economic recovery task force in an attempt to help ease the transition back to normalcy. Before the pandemic, B.C. had the highest rate of economic growth in the country.

READ MORE: B.C. announces $5B coronavirus aid package for individuals, businesses

Several municipalities have laid off hundreds of staff under the pandemic, but James said there is no plan to make cuts to the B.C. public service, noting there’s been a significant shift work from home.

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“Many of our employees are in fact busy or busier than they normally are, putting those programs and services together,” James said.

Impact of coronavirus on B.C. tourism will be devastating
Impact of coronavirus on B.C. tourism will be devastating

Nationally, the largest employment declines were mostly recorded in industries that involve public-facing activities or limited ability to work from home, such as accommodation and food services (-23.9 per cent) and information, culture and recreation (-13.3 per cent).

The hardest hit demographic was young people. Among youth aged 15 to 24 years, employment decreased by 392,500 (-15.4 per cent), bringing the jobless rate for youth to 49.1%, the lowest on record using comparable data beginning in 1976.