The northwest continues to have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the province, indicate Statistics Canada based on data collected in December.
At 5.6 per cent, the unemployment rate is the second lowest of the seven economic regions in B.C., behind only the northeast where the rate is 4.3 per cent.
The B.C. overall rate is 7.2 per cent and the highest regional rate in the province is in the Cariboo where it is 9.3 per cent.
The figures released Jan. 8 reflect data collected Dec. 6, 2020 to Dec. 12, 2020 around the time Dr. Bonnie Henry brought in more stringent public health orders limiting contact between people to stem a rising COVID-19 rate.
November 2020’s rate was 6 per cent, a continuation of declines from a high of 14.2 per cent in July.
The northwest region takes in Haida Gwaii in the west to just this side of Vanderhoof in the east and is based not on employment insurance data, but on interviews of people who consider themselves part of the labour force regardless of whether they are actually working or not.
Although the northwest rate is low in percentage terms, there were fewer people working in December — 39,000 — than in December of 2019 when 41,700 people were on the job. And only 1,700 people considered themselves as unemployed in Dec. 2019 compared to 2,300 now, making for an unemployment rate of 3.9 per cent.
Nationally, the country’s unemployment rate in December was 8.6 per cent which, Statistics Canada said, was essentially unchanged from November’s 8.5 per cent.
The federal statistics agency also said that for people between 25 and 54, considered the population’s core group, employment was closer to the pre-COVID level with a dip of just 1.8 per cent between last February and last December.
But for Canadians 55 and up, employment in December was 3.4 per cent below February’s level.
Provincial jobs minister Ravi Kahlon was encouraged by figures indicating growth in December but said some sectors are still troubled.
“B.C.’s total employment has now bounced back to 98.7 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, but certain sectors like tourism and hospitality are still struggling. We are also seeing disproportionate impacts on people of colour who are both business owners and employees,” he said.
“There is reason for hope in the long term as independent economists predict B.C. will lead all provinces with the highest gross domestic product growth in 2021 and the lowest unemployment – but only if we are successful in bending the curve and reducing transmission.