Unemployment falls to 13%, defying far gloomier predictions


The Ottawa-Gatineau economy has lost approximately 70,000 jobs since the COVID-19 pandemic began in mid-March.

The Labor Department report released Friday, which showed the jobless rate fall to 13.3 percent, defied even the most optimistic expectations among economists, who had been expecting job losses of more than eight million and a jobless rate of 20 percent or higher.

In May, 42.9% of self-employed workers worked less than half their usual hours for COVID-19-related reasons, a drop from 50.2% in April.

Instead, the economy added 2.5 million jobs in May, which drove unemployment down from 14.7% in April, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Consumer confidence, manufacturing and services industries are also stabilizing, though at low levels, signs the worst was over.

The only province that saw job declines was Ontario, where the lifting of restrictions began later in the month.

The actual figure will be influenced by how many people gave up looking for a job because they are not counted in the unemployment rate.

In B.C., the agency said, the unemployment rate rose 1.9 percentage points to 13.4 per cent.

That's up from 6.8 per cent in April and figures show the city shed about 3,000 jobs last month, and nearly 10,000 since January, just before the pandemic began impacting the Canadian economy. The unemployment rate for returning students surged to 40.3 percent compared with 13.8 percent in May 2019, Statscan said. "In March and April there were almost 387,000 fewer people working and only 43,000 jobs were recovered in May so there is still a long way to go".

The crisis has also exposed wide disparities: While the unemployment rate for white Americans was 12.4% May, it was 17.6% for Hispanics and 16.8% for African-Americans.

"That's really a reflection of the sectors that are suffering the most", she said.

Kamins and other economists credit the government's small-business lending effort, the Paycheck Protection Program, with encouraging employers to rehire. That increase followed a cumulative decline of 27.7% from February to April.



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