Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon speaks in the B.C. legislature, describing work underway to make a small business and tourism aid package less restrictive, Dec. 10, 2020. (Hansard TV)

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon speaks in the B.C. legislature, describing work underway to make a small business and tourism aid package less restrictive, Dec. 10, 2020. (Hansard TV)

B.C.’s latest COVID-19 restrictions cost thousands of service jobs

Part-time workers set back again by spike in virus spread

B.C.’s loss of 43,000 jobs in April is almost entirely due to the COVID-19 “circuit breaker” restrictions on travel, accommodation and dining imposed at the end of March to stop the biggest-ever spike in infections and serious illness, Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon says.

Statistics Canada’s monthly labour force survey shows the first net loss of jobs in B.C. after 11 months of slow improvement following the initial employment crash that resulted from the first round of business restrictions last spring. The Business Council of B.C. has tracked the recovery and noted that full-time jobs have been replaced by part-time as employers face continued uncertainty and operational limits.

“The vast majority of the job losses last month were part-time and in accommodation and food services, as well as information, culture and recreation,” Kahlon said in a statement Friday. “These sectors were directly impacted by Dr. Bonnie Henry’s health orders, known as the ‘circuit breaker,’ designed to bend the curve of B.C.’s third wave.”

B.C. Liberal jobs critic Todd Stone said the latest employment figures show there are still 23,200 fewer people working today than in February 2020, before the pandemic arrived. He said the B.C. NDP government has presided over an increase of 100,000 public sector jobs since it was elected in 2017, while support for business has been slow to arrive and difficult to qualify for.

RELATED: B.C. restaurants get ‘circuit breaker’ grant extension

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Stone cites the B.C. Hotels Association survey that found 47 per cent of members still can’t qualify for B.C. business recovery grants, which Kahlon has overhauled to make them easier to get.

Kahlon said there is more than $125 million still available for the Circuit Breaker Business Relief Grant, set up to assist businesses affected by the ban on indoor dining and regional travel imposed this spring.

“Most importantly, we’re seeing that the health orders and restrictions are working, as our daily case counts have gone down significantly,” Kahlon said.


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tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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