Drop in hotel and food jobs a factor as P.E.I. employment fell in February

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P.E.I. food service jobs fell by about 1,000 positions in February.  (Sara Fraser/CBC - image credit)
P.E.I. food service jobs fell by about 1,000 positions in February. (Sara Fraser/CBC - image credit)

After months of healthier employment statistics than the country as a whole, P.E.I. bucked the trend in February, with employment falling by 500 jobs compared to a 259,000-job gain for Canada overall.

Prince Edward Island's full-time employment was down 1,100 jobs compared to January, Statistics Canada reported on Friday. Part-time employment on the Island was up by more than 500 jobs.

The change meant P.E.I.'s unemployment rate rose from 7.9 per cent in January to 9.2 per cent in February. However, February's rate was still better than the 9.9 per cent rate in December, when the Island went into a COVID-19 circuit break after leaving the Atlantic bubble in late November.

The monthly Labour Force Survey also showed that P.E.I. had the second-highest percentage employment decrease among Canadian provinces compared to a year earlier.

"February marked 12 months of unprecedented changes in the Canadian labour market, resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic," the Statistics Canada report said.

The Island had a 4.8-per-cent drop in employment from February 2020, a month before the pandemic began to bite into the economy, to February 2021.

Prince Edward Island job stats for the last five years show the stark effect of the COVID-19 shutdown last spring.
Prince Edward Island job stats for the last five years show the stark effect of the COVID-19 shutdown last spring.(Statistics Canada)

Only Newfoundland and Labrador had a higher decrease in employment over that year, at 7.6 per cent. However, that province was placed into lockdown on Feb. 12, with all but essential businesses closed, because of a dramatic leap in the number of active COVID-19 cases.

Other P.E.I. job numbers for February 2021:

  • The unemployment rate was 9.2 per cent, compared to 8.2 for Canada as a whole.

  • The labour force participation rate was 64.4 per cent, on par with the national figure of 64.7 per cent.

  • Accommodation and food services jobs were down 1,000 for a total of 4,500 jobs on P.E.I., as the national sector rose by 65,000 or 7.8 per cent.

"Despite these gains, the accommodation and food services industry remains the furthest behind pre-COVID levels of employment," the Statistics Canada report said of the Canadian numbers. "The number of people working in the industry was approximately one-quarter lower (-26.1%) in February 2021 than 12 months earlier."

As for unemployment rates by gender, the P.E.I. figures show women had a lower rate than men in only one of the three age sectors, 25-54 years, where women had a jobless rate of eight per cent compared to 9.5 per cent for men.

Men's prospects were about 1.5 percentage points better than women's in the 15-24 and 55-plus age ranges.

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