Falling jobless rate in Thompson-Okanagan not helping low wage earners | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Falling jobless rate in Thompson-Okanagan not helping low wage earners

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April 09, 2021 - 4:00 PM

Unemployment rates continue to fall across the country, including in the Thompson-Okanagan, but not everyone is benefitting.

March employment statistics show the Thompson-Okanagan’s unemployment rate fell to 7.3 per cent in March from 7.5 per cent in February.

The news was even better in the Central Okanagan where it fell to 5.0 per cent from 5.2 per cent the month before, giving it the second lowest rate in the country.

“Although unemployment figures are low, which is great, the wages that those jobs might secure is not necessarily enough to meet the demands of rent and utilities and the general cost of living,” Naomi Woodland, poverty reduction manager for the United Way of the Southern Interior, told iNFOnews.ca.

The latest study done on poverty rates, in 2019, found that 15 per cent of Central Okanagan residents were experiencing some level of poverty and those numbers are likely worse because of COVID-19, Woodland said.

About 23 per cent of families were paying more than 30 per cent of their income for basic housing and utilities while 49 per cent of single moms live in poverty.

Young women have been hit the hardest during the pandemic.

Statistics Canada says in a news release 43,000 more young men (aged 15 to 24) were employed in March versus February across the country.

At the same time, there were 27,000 fewer young women employed, partly because of how hard the clothing sector has been hit by COVID-19.

“In 2019, one in five (21.8%) young women employed in retail worked in clothing and clothing accessories stores, compared with 7.5% of young men,” the news release reads. “The clothing and clothing accessories subsector of retail trade has been hardest hit since the start of the pandemic.”

It goes further than that because servers have a higher level of insecurity than other minimum wage jobs.

“If you’re a restaurant server, the employer, technically, only has to keep you on the roster for two hours and they can send you home if it’s not busy, which means there’s no secure income either.”

The United Way and regional district are working on a Central Okanagan Poverty and Wellness Strategy that will soon be reaching out for community input with a goal of making some recommendations after July.

READ MORE: B.C. liquor servers to get pay boost on par with general minimum wage increase

On a positive note, the province announced today, April 9, it was giving liquor servers a pay boost to match the general minimum wage. Liquor servers earning minimum wage will make $15.20 an hour, up from $13.95 as of June 1. The general minimum wage is increasing by 60 cents from $14.60 an hour, also on June 1.

In terms of unemployment statistics, the Kelowna Census Metropolitan Area, essentially the Central Okanagan, has recorded the lowest or almost lowest unemployment rates in the country over the past few months. In March, at 5.0 per cent, it lagged behind only Quebec City, which had a 4.9 per cent unemployment rate.

No other city in the Thompson or Okanagan regions have unemployment rates broken out by Stats Canada so there's only a regional figure. At 7.3 per cent, it’s in the mid-range for economic regions in the province.

READ MORE: Economy adds 303,000 jobs in March, unemployment rate falls, Statistics Canada says

B.C. added 35,000 jobs in March, leaving its unemployment rate unchanged from February at 6.9 per cent. But the total number of people employed now is at “pre-pandemic levels,” states a news release from the provincial government.

In March 2019, B.C.’s unemployment rate was 4.7 per cent.

Nationally, unemployment fell to 7.5 per cent in March from 8.2 per cent in February. That’s better than the 7.9 per cent recorded in March 2020 but far above the 5.8 per cent in March 2019.

Get more information on the national employment picture here.

— With files from The Canadian Press

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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