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The unemployment rate in the Northwest Territories jumped to its highest level since 2016 last month.

On April 9 the NWT Bureau of Statistics reported on data gathered by Statistics Canada during the third week of March, March 15 to 21, the first such report since the beginnings of the federal government’s interventions to curb the spread of Covid-19.

The monthly reports by Stats Can are based on interviews with Canadian households during a sample week each month. Since the labour market changed so drastically during the sample week in March, and the estimates for the Northern territories are actually based on rolling three-month averages, the NWT Bureau warned the impact of Covid-19 on the NWT labour market may not be fully reflected in the data.

In the NWT, the unemployment rate rose to 9.3 per cent in March, its highest level since January 2016. The bureau noted that usually in March, unemployment levels drop as the weather warms. It’s worth noting that young people aged 15 to 24 who would typically find spring/summer jobs in the hospitality and tourism sector saw the biggest drop in employment month-to-month, from 42.6 to 34.6 per cent.

The NWT employment rate, arrived at through a slightly different calculation than the unemployment rate, of 63.6 per cent was 1.3 per lower in March of this year than it was 12 months ago. The labour force was unchanged in that time, staying at 22,700 people, but the number of those employed fell by 500 to 20,600.

The bureau said 300 jobs were lost in the NWT services sector, most of them in “health care and social assistance, information, culture and recreation and accommodation, and food services,” offsetting gains in other sub-sectors.

Likewise, gains in construction and manufacturing were offset by losses in oil and gas, utilities and forestry, fishing and mining.

Covid-19 impacts across Canada

Nationwide, pandemic-related economic disruptions decreased employment levels between Feb. 20 and March 20 by 1.4 per cent to 59.7 per cent. Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario experienced the biggest drops.

The number of people without a job who had worked earlier in the month of March and still wanted a job skyrocketed compared to January and February.

“These people were not counted as unemployed because they did not look for a job, likely because of Covid-19,” the report reads. “If these people were included in the unemployed group, Canada’s unemployment rate would increase from 7.8 per cent to 8.9 per cent.”

Across the country, 2.8 million people were employed during the week of March 15-21 but were absent from work for all of most the week.

The equivalent figure for February was 737,400.

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Blair McBride

Blair McBride covers the Legislative Assembly, business and education. Before coming to Yellowknife he worked as a journalist in British Columbia, Thailand and Ontario. He studied journalism at Western...

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