Victoria boasts country's lowest unemployment rate

Thanks to a surge in jobs being added in the hospitality sector as COVID restrictions relaxed, Victoria’s unemployment rate is now the lowest in the country, according to Statistics Canada’s monthly labour force survey.

The unemployment rate in Victoria hit 4.2 per cent in August, edging out both Quebec City and Lethbridge, Alta., which boasted rates of 4.4 per cent.

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In Victoria, it was an improvement from the 4.3 per cent recorded in July and the 10.7 per cent measured in August last year.

According to the national number cruncher, Victoria saw job increases in most of its economic sectors, but the biggest gains were in the accommodation and food-services sector, which added 7,900 positions over the last 12 months, and educational-services sector, which added 5,700 jobs in the last 12 months.

There was also a significant gain in the information, culture and recreational-services sector, which added 4,100 jobs over the last year.

The construction sector in Victoria was the only one to see a significant dip in its job numbers over the last 12 months — it reported shedding 4,600 positions in that time.

The province also saw an improvement in its unemployment rate, dropping to 6.5 per cent in August from 6.7 per cent in July and 11.8 per cent last year.

Provincial Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon said B.C. is making great strides in its economic recovery with 14,400 jobs gained throughout the province.

“B.C. has one of the lowest unemployment rates and a job recovery rate of 101.1 per cent, leading Canada as the only province with employment above pre-pandemic levels for the third straight month,” he said.

Vancouver Island-Coast has seen a job recovery rate of about 104 per cent.

The rest of the country also reported a strong surge in jobs as Canada’s economy added 90,200 jobs in August, the third consecutive monthly increase that brought the country as close as it has been to recouping historic employment losses last year.

The unemployment rate fell to 7.1 per cent for the month, compared with 7.5 per cent in July, bringing the rate to the lowest level since the onset of the pandemic last year.

Economists had expected that Friday’s report from Statistics Canada would show another gain as restrictions eased in much of the country, giving another reopening bump to the labour market.

Brendon Bernard, an economist with job-posting website Indeed Canada, said the pace of gains is likely to cool with the arrival of fall because there are fewer restrictions to roll back.

The gains in August were concentrated in full-time work and in the hard-hit service sector, led by gains in accommodation and food services as restrictions eased in much of the country.

Overall, employment was within 156,000 jobs, or 0.8 per cent, of the level recorded in February 2020 before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is the closest the country has been to recouping all the jobs lost during the first wave of COVID-19.

Still, there are a few flies in the ointment, said CIBC senior economist Royce Mendes, who noted the participation rate fell in August, which helped push down the unemployment rate.

Statistics Canada said the unemployment rate would have been 9.1 per cent in August, down from 9.5 per cent in July, had it included in calculations Canadians who wanted to work but didn’t search for a job.

“The economy is still a long way from being fully healed,” Mendes wrote in a note.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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