THE NUMBER of people working in the northwest dropped slightly in March compared to February, reports Statistics Canada today.
The agency says there were 39,500 people working in March, a drop of 300 from February’s total of 39,800.
An increase in the number of jobless people, from 3,200 in February to 3,500 in March helped push the unemployment rate to 8.2 per cent from 7.4 percent.
The labour force, defined as the number of people working or looking for work, dropped from 43,000 in February to 42,900 in March.
Overall employment in British Columbia was down 15,000, offsetting most of an increase experienced in February, indicated Statistics Canada, pushing up the provincial unemployment rate to 7 per cent.
Compared with 12 months earlier, employment in the province was little changed, said the agency.
A year ago in the northwest, the labour force stood at 45,900 with 40,500 people working and 5,400 people not working in March 2012, a factor that pegged the unemployment rate at 11.8 per cent.
The northwest continues to have the highest unemployment rate in the province with the next highest being the lower mainland and the Thompson/Okanagan, tied at 7.1 per cent.
A healthy oil and gas industry in the northeast kept that region in the position of having the lowest unemployment rate at 4.6 per cent.
The northwest jobless rate is not the number of people collecting Employment Insurance.
Instead it is based on interviews of people from the north coast to just this side of Vanderhoof who consider themselves as part of the workforce whether they are employed or not.
And that means the jobless rate can reflect how people feel about their own employment prospects.
National employment declined by 55,000 in March following an increase in February.
The national unemployment rate rose 0.2 percentage points to 7.2 per cent.
Despite the decline in March, employment was 1.2 per cent or 203,000 above the level of 12 months earlier, with the increase mainly in full-time work, reported Statistics Canada.
Over the same period, the total number of hours worked also rose by 1.2 per cent.