Employment in food accommodation and food services dropped almost 25 per cent in March because of COVID-19. (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)

Unemployment in Greater Victoria rose to 4.6 per cent in March

Canadian unemployment rate in March rose to 7.8 per cent

Unemployment in Greater Victoria rose 1.2 per cent in March 2020 as the economic effects of COVID-19 unfold, according to a report from Statistics Canada.

As Canada’s unemployment rate rose by 2.2 percentage points to 7.8 per cent, the unemployment rate in the Victoria Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) rose to 4.6 per cent in March 2020 from 3.4 per cent in February.

Two other CMAs in British Columbia also recorded higher unemploment rates. The unemployment rate of Vancouver’s CMA rose to 5.3 per cent from 4.4 per cent while the unemployment rate of Kelowna rose to 5.9 per cent from 5.3 per cent. The official unemployment rate of Abbotsford-Mission dropped by 0.1 per cent to 4.6 per cent.

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But this development actually marks an exception to rule as the Canadian economy recorded the largest one-month increase in the official unemployment rate since comparable data became available in 1976.

“Almost all of the increase in unemployment was due to temporary layoffs, meaning that workers are expected to return to their job within six months,” reads an accompanying analysis.

In the face of social distancing rules, industries involving “public-facing activities” or with limited ability to work from home recorded the largest employment declines, including food accommodation and food services (minus 23.9 per cent); information, culture and recreation (minus 13.3 per cent); educational services (minus 9.1 per cent); and wholesale and retail trade (7.2 per cent).

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Equally telling is a look at the industries where employment changed little. They include public administration, construction and professional, scientific and technical services, according to the report. Natural resources also observed an increase.

Employment losses were the largest among employees working in what the report calls “less secure, lower-quality jobs” as employees earning less than two-thirds of the 2019 median hourly wage accounted for almost 50 per cent of the decline in employment. Youth were also among the hardest hit groups.

Overall, the number of employed Canadians fell by more than one million and experts expect that the sudden employment decline observed in March will have what the report calls a “significant effect” on the performance of the Canadian economy over the coming months.

Historically, the employment decline in March was larger than in any of three significant recessions experienced since 1980.


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