Official statistics show that the unemployment rate in Greater Victoria continues to drop.
Figures for Victoria Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) show the February unemployment rate at 4.9 per cent, up 1.4 per cent from February 2020, but down 0.1 per cent from January 2021. The provincial unemployment rate dropped to 6.9 per cent in February, down 1.1 per from January. The national rate dropped to 8.2 per cent, down 1.2 per cent from January, for the lowest rate since March 2020.
These figures appear after 12 months of what Statistics Canada has called “unprecedented changes” in the Canadian labour market as public health measures affected 5.5 million people in various ways at the peak of the pandemic response. Figures have since rebounded.
While regional unemployment during the pandemic peaked in July 2020 at 11.3 per cent, current figures show the region near pre-pandemic levels, noting that the unemployment rate is only one measure of the larger economic context.
Broad reasons for the improved employment picture include improvements in the retail sector, along with accommodation and food services. Lower paid workers in these public-facing industries were among the benefactors of the recent rebound. Employment of youth and women is also improving. But these improvements come with the proviso that young and female workers remain among the groups which the pandemic has hit the hardest, with many having worked in sectors like retail as well as accommodation and food services before its start.
“Despite these gains, the accommodation and food services industry remains the furthest behind pre-COVID levels of employment,” it reads. “The number of people working in the industry was approximately one-quarter lower (minus 26.1 per cent) in February 2021 than 12 months earlier.”
The figures also hide other issues. Had Statistics Canada counted the number of people who wanted a job but were not actively looking for one, the adjusted unemployment rate in February would have been 10.7 per cent (although this figure is also trending down). Self-employment also shows little sign of recovery.
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