The Kootenays’ unemployment rate was 5.5 per cent in May 2023. File photo

The Kootenays’ unemployment rate was 5.5 per cent in May 2023. File photo

Jobless rate in Kootenay region rises above provincial, national averages

Unemployment was at 5.5% for the Kootenays in May

by Timothy Schafer

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Nelson Daily

The unemployment rate for the Kootenay region has been steadily climbing since the start of the year and is now above the provincial and national rates, according to recent figures released by Statistics Canada.

The percentage for known unemployed people in the Kootenay region — which includes West and East Kootenay, as well as Nelson, Castlegar, Trail and Grand Forks — was 5.5 per cent in May, according to Statistics Canada latest figures, up from 4.3 per cent in April.

With one of the lowest rates in the province — 82,600 people were working and 4,800 looking for work out of a population of 142,000 — it rises well above the rate of 3.9 per cent from one year ago.

In April 2022, there were 81,700 working and 3,600 job hunting out of a population of 140,400 for a rate of 4.2 per cent.

At the same time last year the rate was 3.9 per cent with 83,100 working and 3,400 searching out of a population of 140,600.

Across the province the unemployment rate for the last month stayed steady at five per cent — and the same rate from one year previous — while the national unemployment rate rose slightly to 5.2 per cent from five per cent in April.

The provincial economy added 1,400 jobs in May, for a total of 17,800 jobs added in 2023.

“That increase was driven by a gain of 4,300 full-time jobs, including 1,500 in women’s full-time employment,” said Brenda Bailey, Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation, in a press release.

B.C.’s unemployment rate is fourth-lowest among all provinces, but above the historic low in winter.

“This means businesses are seeing more applicants for their vacant positions,” said Bailey.

B.C.’s average hourly wage of $34.21 is third-highest in the country, and year-over-year growth of seven per cent leads all large provinces.