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

Surrey School District forecasts up to 30 per cent of students will return to class this week

Education Minister Rob Fleming said on June 1, about 60,000 B.C. children returned to school

Video tribute to KPU’s spring grad class also honours Andrew Petter, Bill Wright

‘We still want to celebrate our graduates, their achievements, and their resilience’

Surrey baseball association loses ‘a true giant’ in Bruce Lawson

Longtime volunteer ‘always gave his heart and soul to Surrey Canadian and the game of baseball’

Surrey Mounties respond to report of shots fired in Cloverdale

They took 12 people into custody but found no evidence shots were actually fired

Clover Valley Beer Festival cancelled

Cloverdale beer fest falls victim to COVID-19

B.C. records four new COVID-19 cases, Abbotsford hospital outbreak cleared

Four senior home outbreaks also declared over, eight still active

RCMP, coroner investigate murder-suicide on Salt Spring Island

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

About 30% of B.C. students return to schools as in-class teaching restarts amid pandemic

Education minister noted that in-class instruction remains optional

Trudeau avoids questions about anti-racism protesters dispersed for Trump photo-op

Prime minister says racism is an issue Canadians must tackle at home, too

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

Importance of accurate, ethical reporting more critical than ever

B.C.’s Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics goes virtual

The annual event partnering RCMP with Special Olympians is dramatically altered by COVID-19

Bateman program encourages people to sketch outside, connect with nature

#MyNatureSketch initiative encourages Canadians to become ‘bright-eyed three year olds’

Be cautious expanding COVID-19 bubble, Dr. Bonnie Henry tells B.C.

Senior homes stay off-limits as schools, businesses reopen

Most Read