Unemployment in Greater Victoria dropped in August, according to the latest figures from Statistics Canada.
The Victoria Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) recorded an unemployment rate of 10.3 per cent in August, down from 11.3 per cent in July. While an improvement, the latest figures nonetheless mean that regional unemployment remains near a historic high, certainly since the post-war period, with COVID-19 bearing the blame.
Before the pandemic, the regional unemployment rate stood at 3.4 per cent in February, with Greater Victoria consistently ranking among the regions with the lowest unemployment rates in Canada.
More than half a year later, Victoria’s unemployment rate finds itself just below the provincial rate of 10.7 per cent and just ahead of the national rate of 10.2 per cent.
It also has the second-worst rate of the four CMAs in British Columbia. Vancouver CMA recorded an unemployment rate of 12.8 per cent, down from 13.3. Kelowna CMA recorded an unemployment rate of nine per cent, down from 10 per cent, while Abbotsford-Mission CMA recorded an unemployment rate of 8.2 per cent, down from 8.3 per cent.
These new figures appear against the backdrop of several developments.
The federal government announced last month announced an unemployment rate of 13.1 per cent as the future albeit temporary threshold for calculating Employment Insurance benefits. Recipients in regions with rates above that figure will see their benefits calculated according to their respective rates.
Perhaps more significantly, the federal government announced that it would transition the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) into a new program, extending it for four weeks on Aug. 20 following its initial introduction in the spring.
With the new program likely less generous than CERB, the demand and competition for jobs will likely intensify.
Speaking with Black Press last week, Ken Peacock, chief economist for the Business Council of B.C., doubted whether the provincial economy would be able to grow fast enough. While it added 15,300 jobs in August, Peacock suggested that increase should have been higher.
“If this were normal times, a 15,000 upward movement would be quite good, even kind of strong,” he said. But in the “current context” it marked a “dramatic pull-back” from the previous couple of months, he added. “It speaks to exactly what we’ve been concerned about, that the low-hanging fruit in terms of rehiring has been accomplished, and we’re going to see sluggish job growth from here on out.”