More people were working in northwest B.C. in March compared to February, according to Statistics Canada. (Black Press Media File Photo)

More people were working in northwest B.C. in March compared to February, according to Statistics Canada. (Black Press Media File Photo)

Northwestern workforce grew in March compared to February

But unemployment rate remains high

More people were working in northwestern B.C. in March compared to February but the unemployment rate held steady as more people considered themselves as part of the labour force seeking employment.

Based on information supplied by Statistics Canada, employment grew from 42,800 people in February to 44,000 people in March in the area from Vanderhoof to the North Coast.

But February’s unemployment rate of 8.5 per cent was repeated in March owing to more people considering themselves as part of the labour force in seeking employment.

And compared to last March when 41,500 people were working, the overall northwestern labour force has increased over the past year as the regional economy begins to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last March 24,900 people did not consider themselves part of the labour force, a figure that dropped to 22,100 in February and declined again to 20,700 in March.

Still, this region’s unemployment rate was the highest in March within the seven economic regions of B.C. and the provincial unemployment rate for the month was 7.7 per cent. Across B.C., 35,000 jobs were added in March compared to February.

Nationally, as reported by Statistics Canada, employment rose by 303,000 for an unemployment rate of 7.5 per cent, the lowest since February 2020.

Yet there were 296,000 fewer people working across the country in March compared to the last pre-pandemic month which was February 2020.

“Much of the employment increase reflected continued recovery in industries—including retail trade and accommodation and food services—where employment had fallen in January in response to public health restrictions,” reported Statistics Canada.

“Growth in health care and social assistance, educational services, and construction also contributed to the national increase in March.”

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.

Provincial jobs minister Ravi Kahlon welcomed the B.C. jobs increase for March, but warned that recent public health restrictions will have an impact.

“While this report is another sign our approach to an innovative, sustainable and inclusive economic recovery is working, some sectors are still struggling, and we are not out of the woods yet,” he said.

“With recent temporary public health orders necessary to address rising COVID-19 case counts, we expect those impacts will be reflected in next month’s jobs report.”