B.C.’s full-time employment rebounded by more than 21,000 in May, offset by a loss of more than 23,000 part-time jobs as the province emerged from its COVID-19 restrictions on indoor dining and travel after the Victoria Day weekend.
Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon announced Friday that B.C.’s small and medium-sized business grant program is over-subscribed, and additional funds have been added to keep it open until July 2, to provide more support to pay or retain employees, build patios and gear up for the first phase of pandemic reopening.
B.C.’s “circuit breaker” grant program expired June 4, after offering up to $10,000 in one-time grants to compensate qualifying hospitality and accommodation businesses for the seven-week travel and indoor service ban. Originally budgeted at $50 million, the short-term relief program is expected to pay out $130 million once all applications are assessed, Kahlon said. One of the issues has been that 40 per cent of circuit breaker applicants did not provide the required banking information, many applying with personal bank accounts rather than business accounts, he said.
The business recovery grant program was launched during last fall’s provincial election campaign, and has been repeatedly altered since then as few businesses found they could qualify by the previous March 31 deadline. Originally businesses had to show a loss of 70 per cent of revenue, but that was lowered to 30 per cent after much of the initial $300 million budget was not allocated.
With the latest extension, the recovery grant program has committed $290 million to support pandemic-affected businesses, and by the new July 2 deadline it expects to pay out $430 million to more than 20,000 businesses, the ministry says.
Statistics Canada’s monthly labour force survey reported a net loss of 68,000 jobs across Canada in May, with the unemployment rate remaining at 8.2 per cent. B.C.’s unemployment rate for May is seven per cent. The labour force survey notes that with pandemic restrictions still in place in parts of the country, more people who wanted to work were discouraged from seeking work and showing up in the unemployed statistics.
Kahlon said he has heard from some employers that they are having difficulty finding people to return to work.
“We’re a week into the restart plan,” Kahlon said. “I think there are some workers who have been out of the workforce, and they’ll need a little time to be comfortable coming back.”