Unemployment drops, but wages rise for Kootenay economy

The region’s unemployment rate might be dropping but it still is on the higher end as it relates to the rest of the province.

The Kootenay region unemployment rate stood at 5.9 per cent in May, a drop from 6.3 per cent in April, and less than the high of 7.3 per cent in January, but it is fifth out of seven economic regions in B.C.

The provincial unemployment rate remains one of the lowest in the country at 5.5 per cent, below the national average (6.2 per cent),said Brenda Bailey, minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation.

“On June 1, we increased the general minimum wage to $17.40 an hour, the highest of all the provinces and tied to inflation to provide certainty for employers,” Bailey said. “The increase will help approximately 240,000 workers who earned less than $17.40 an hour, prior to June 1.”

That wage increase might add to the income for minimum wage workers, but it is driving up the costs for industries that employ those workers. One Nelson restaurant owner, who did not wish to be named, said that extra increase in costs — coupled with higher material costs and less traffic due to higher fuel prices — is giving the industry another hurdle.

“There is no question this means we have to raise our prices (on the menu),” the owner said. “And, although I don’t anticipate layoffs, it puts pressure on to have a better summer season than we have had in the past.”

The owner said the current economic climate for the service industry in Nelson was “sluggish,” and might be coming down from the post-pandemic flourish, or that people have less money to spend because of rising costs across the board.

High interest rates and slower global economic growth have hampered the region’s economy, said Bailey.

Provincially, the economy has remained steady this past month with job growth in the private sector (+3,700) and full-time employment gains (+2,100) and a total of 79,200 new jobs since May 2023.

“Compared to this time last year, B.C. has seen some of the strongest private-sector job growth in the country — second among provinces, with a gain of 32,800 private-sector jobs year over year.

The interest-rate cut from the Bank of Canada helps, Bailey explained, and provides some help for people with mortgages or debt, and businesses seeing higher borrowing costs because of the rates.

Going up

There is an increase in the minimum wage:


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Source: Province of B.C.

Timothy Schafer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Nelson Daily