The unemployment rate in Prince George dropped to 7.6 per cent in December, the same rate seen in February before the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was felt locally.
The local unemployment rate was down from 8.1 per cent in November, according to data released by Statistics Canada on Friday. Unemployment in the city peaked at 11.8 per cent in May, and had held at around 10 per cent for much of 2020.
"There is reason for hope in the long term as independent economists predict B.C. will lead all provinces with the highest gross domestic product growth in 2021 and the lowest unemployment – but only if we are successful in bending the curve and reducing transmission," said Ravi Kahlon, B.C. minister of jobs, economy recovery and innovation, in a press release on Friday. "We need to stay focused on following the advice of our health professionals for the health of British Columbians as well as the health of our economy."
While December's unemployment rate was the lowest seen in the city since March, it was still higher than the 6.7 per cent reported in December 2019.
Last month there were roughly 48,600 people working in the city, 4,000 people unemployed and 20,900 working-age adults not participating in the labour force.
The city's labour force participation rate stood at 71.5 per cent, up from 69.1 per cent in December 2019, but down from 72.4 per cent in November.
Provincially, B.C.'s unemployment rate rose slightly from 7.1 per cent in November to 7.2 per cent in December. The national unemployment rate also rose by 0.1 of a percentage point to 8.6 per cent.
Canada lost 63,000 jobs as the impacts of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic were felt, Statistics Canada reported.
"B.C.'s economy has bucked the trend with modest gains adding 3,800 jobs, but we are not out of the woods as daily COVID-19 cases remain high," Kahlon said. "While B.C. added 24,000 full-time jobs across various sectors, including construction and manufacturing, about 20,000 part-time jobs were lost."
Overall employment in the province bounced back to 98.7 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, but sectors like tourism and hospitality continue to struggle, he added.
"Our StrongerBC recovery plan is underway and helping to support people and businesses," Kahlon said. "I encourage all businesses that have been affected by the pandemic to apply for the Small and Medium Sized Business Recovery Grant."