Candidate Ravi Kahlon listens as party leader John Horgan speaks to NDP supporters during a campaign stop in Surrey, B.C., on Monday May 8, 2017. Kahlon, who is now British Columbia’s jobs minister, says the latest employment numbers from Statistics Canada show the provincial economy remains resilient. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Candidate Ravi Kahlon listens as party leader John Horgan speaks to NDP supporters during a campaign stop in Surrey, B.C., on Monday May 8, 2017. Kahlon, who is now British Columbia’s jobs minister, says the latest employment numbers from Statistics Canada show the provincial economy remains resilient. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Employment data shows B.C. resilient, says minister, but Liberals unimpressed

Ravi Kahlon, minister of jobs, economic recovery and innovation, says B.C. created 2,800 jobs in January

British Columbia’s jobs minister says the latest employment numbers from Statistics Canada show the provincial economy remains resilient.

The unemployment rate in B.C. last month was eight per cent, up from 7.2 per cent in December.

The national jobless rate was 9.4 per cent in January, up from 8.8 per cent in December, and economists say that’s mainly due to the loss of hundreds of thousands of service sector jobs, most in Ontario and Quebec.

Ravi Kahlon, the minister of jobs, economic recovery and innovation, says B.C. created 2,800 jobs in January and analysts peg the higher unemployment rate to more people looking for work.

B.C. Liberal jobs critic Todd Stone says the latest data shows B.C.’s job growth stalled in January and the New Democrats are hindering economic recovery and failing small business.

But Kahlon says B.C. has seen nine consecutive months of job growth, bringing employment numbers to more than 98 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to hamper the province’s hospitality and tourism sectors, Kahlon said in a statement on Friday.

“Additionally, people of colour and Indigenous Peoples in British Columbia continue to face disproportionate impacts during this pandemic,” he said.

“Our province’s economic recovery will not fully take hold until vaccinations have been fully administered, which is why it is critically important we do everything we can to prevent the spread of this virus.”

A news release from the B.C. Liberal caucus says 41,700 fewer people are working compared to pre-pandemic levels last February, and Stone said the province’s economic recovery program has not responded.

He also highlighted the fact that only $12 million of $300 million in grant money for small and medium-sized businesses has been spent, which Stone said “speaks to the NDP’s incompetence in getting funds out the door.”

Kahlon said his ministry will continue to support the hardest-hit sectors and build a recovery that closes inequality gaps.

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