One year into pandemic, P.E.I. job market remains volatile

·2 min read
Retail led job growth on Prince Edward Island in March, according to Statistics Canada data released Friday. (Nicola MacLeod/CBC - image credit)
Retail led job growth on Prince Edward Island in March, according to Statistics Canada data released Friday. (Nicola MacLeod/CBC - image credit)

P.E.I.'s unemployment rate dropped more than a percentage point in March, continuing a seesaw that started at the beginning of the year.

The rate fell 1.1 percentage points to 8.1 per cent, according to a Statistics Canada data release Friday.

The Island's jobless rate dipped below 10 per cent in December for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, then plummeted to 7.9 per cent in January, before jumping back up to 9.2 per cent in February.

Among the provinces, P.E.I.'s unemployment rate comes in about the middle. It is the lowest in Atlantic Canada and also better than Alberta's.

Nationally, the unemployment rate fell to 7.5 per cent despite slowdowns tied to a strong new wave of COVID-19 case.

The number of Islanders in the workforce rose slightly in March, according to the Statistics Canada report. The unemployment rate was brought down by an increase in the number of jobs, mostly part-time. The economy added 300 full-time jobs for a total of 65,800, and 1,100 part-time jobs for a total of 13,400.

The number of jobs on the Island crashed in the first wave of the pandemic last spring. From February to April, more than 10,000 Islanders gave up on the idea of finding work entirely.

By the fall, the economy had fallen into a new normal, with the labour force sitting around 86,000, down from a pre-pandemic 88,000, and the unemployment rate a little over 10 per cent.

The labour force has remained relatively constant in the first few months of 2021, but the number of jobs has swung around.

Changing public health restrictions have hit the hospitality sector in particular. After getting crunched by the closure of the Atlantic bubble and new restrictions at the end of November 2020, this sector recovered somewhat in January, but fell off again in February and did not recover in March.

Construction and retail led the growth in jobs in March.

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