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Job numbers show cautious optimism with long road ahead: B.C. finance minister

VICTORIA — Statistics Canada's labour force survey for June shows 118,000 people in B.C. found jobs and the unemployment rate fell slightly to 13 per cent.

VICTORIA — Statistics Canada's labour force survey for June shows 118,000 people in B.C. found jobs and the unemployment rate fell slightly to 13 per cent.

Finance Minister Carol James said Friday the latest numbers paint a picture of cautious optimism with a long road ahead on B.C.'s path to recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gains in May and June bring back about 40 per cent of the total number of jobs lost since the start of the pandemic in February, when B.C.'s jobless rate was five per cent, she told a news conference.

The greatest losses have been in the service sector, but James said that's also where jobs are being added as accommodation and food services accounted for half of last month's gains.

Despite positive signs, James said thousands of people and businesses are still struggling, and net job losses stand at 235,000.

She said youth unemployment in particular stands out at 29.1 per cent, up slightly since May, while 45,000 young people did find jobs last month.

Women in B.C. are also more likely to have lost their job due to COVID-19 than men, James said.

She said the high jobless rate in June reflects increased demand for jobs and confidence that people will have the opportunity to return to work once they start looking again.

James also mentioned the loss of international visitors in the tourism sector, particularly in Metro Vancouver and Victoria, as a factor.

Businesses are restarting cautiously, she added.

"They're making sure that their employees are safe, they're making sure their customers will be safe, and people are starting to see that confidence by going back to businesses."

James is set to provide more information next week on the post-pandemic spending B.C. has made so far, as well as updated revenue and deficit forecasts.

B.C. health officials reported 25 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, as well as one additional death.

That brings the death toll to 187 among 3,053 people who have tested positive for the disease so far, Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said in a joint statement.

Of 187 active cases, 16 people were in hospital, and there were ongoing outbreaks at two long-term care or assisted living facilities and one acute care facility.

While there are no active community outbreaks, Dix and Henry said exposure is still happening.

"When spending more time with friends and family, whether that is close to home or on vacation elsewhere in the province, we remind all British Columbians to avoid closed spaces, crowds and close contact with others," read their statement.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 10, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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