Statistics Canada

The new monthly jobs report out today from Statistics Canada shows Kelowna's unemployment rate continues to rise, counter to a national decline in the percentage of the labour force looking for work.

Kelowna's jobless rate increased again last month, bucking a national trend which saw a rise in employment as the economy re-starts after COVID-19's lockdown measures.

The unemployment rate in the Central Okanagan climbed to 10.2 per cent in June from 9.6 per cent in May. That means there are now 10,800 people looking for work in the greater Kelowna area.

One bright spot for the local economy was a significant rebound in the accommodation and food service sector. Nationally, employment in this sector has returned to two-thirds of what it had been in February, before the onset of the pandemic.

The national retail sector was further along in its jobs recovery, Statistics Canada says, with employment being at 89 per cent of what it had been in February.

Across Canada, the unemployment rate dropped 1.4 points, to 12.3 per cent from May to June. While Kelowna's rate is below the national average, job losses are still increasing while the reverse is true nationally.

The jobless rate in greater Kelowna has almost doubled from March, when it was 5.3 per cent.

The local labour force increased from May to June from 105,300 to 106,400, faster than population growth, suggesting many people are beginning to look for work after being idled for several months.

Total employment in the greater Kelowna area actually increased by 400 people between May and June, but the jobless rate still rose from 9.6 per cent to 10.2 per cent because many of those now actively seeking work did not find it last month.

Across B.C., the unemployment rate fell to 13 per cent in June from 13.4 per cent in May. The jobless rate in Vancouver rose to 13.1 per cent from 10.7 per cent.

B.C. Finance Minister Carole James says the province has now recovered 40 per cent of the total jobs lost since February. She also noted the May-to-June dip in the provincial unemployment rate, from 13.4 per cent to 13 per cent.

"While these numbers are encouraging, the road ahead is a challenging one, as total job losses since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic remain at 235,000," James said.

The government's focus on re-starting B.C.'s economy in a "safe, responsible manner" has been key to the jobs recovery, James said.

But the Opposition Liberals said B.C. has done a better job than most provinces in combatting the coronavirus pandemic, and said it was disappointing that other jurisdictions appear to be bouncing back faster with their economic recovery.

B.C. now has the fourth-highest jobless rate among Canadian provinces. Three years ago, B.C.'s rate was the lowest.

"It's clear NDP policies were hurting B.C. families before the pandemic," Liberal Jobs critic Jordan Sturdy said.

"Unfortunately, we've seen no action from this government that will give people any comfort with an actual plan to bring prosperity back to the province," Sturdy said.

Friday's jobs report said that, nationally, there are still some 3.1 million people affected by the shutdowns of March and April when public health restrictions forced businesses to close and workers to stay at home to slow the spread of COVID-19.

About 2.5 million didn't have jobs in June, either due to temporary or permanent layoffs, while the remainder are working less than half their usual hours.

- with a file from The Canadian Press