Message from the COEDC Director
The past several weeks have certainly been a challenging time for the Central Okanagan community as we have all been called upon to make sacrifices and do our part to support the health of Central Okanagan residents, frontline workers and our public health system. As shown in modeling released by the Provincial Health Officer this week, our collective efforts are paying off and BC has been pointed to as a model for “bending the curve”.
While economic restrictions in British Columbia have been less severe than many other jurisdictions, the impact to our businesses and workforce has been significant. The April Labour Force Survey released today shows that the Central Okanagan unemployment rate rose to 8.1%, compared to 5.9% in March 2020, and the total number of people employed in the region decreased by 5,300 people. Across the Province, the unemployment rate rose to 11.5% and the national unemployment rate is 13%. While Stats Canada cautions looking at the regional unemployment rate on a monthly basis due to a low sample size and high degree of volatility, this aligns with what we are hearing from the business community. According to surveys from our partners at Tourism Kelowna, 93% of tourism related businesses have reported a negative impact and 64% have seen an impact on staffing levels.
Since mid-March the COEDC team and our partners in economic development throughout the region have been listening to local businesses through one on one phone call, industry roundtables, virtual town halls and surveys. It is evident that impacts vary by industry. While retail, hospitality and tourism related businesses have been severely impacted; many industries have been less impacted and some businesses, including certain manufacturers, food producers and technology companies, have seen an increase in demand.
Industry by industry impacts are not reflected in datasets like the Labour Force Survey. For this reason, the COEDC is connecting regularly with the COEDC Advisory Council, representing a broad range of industry sectors, from small business to agriculture to manufacturing this advisory group is helping the region understand and support specific immediate and long term economic impacts.
The release of the BC Restart Plan on May 6th has many asking what’s next? We continue to look to BC health authorities and share WorkSafeBC ‘s guidelines to support the safe reopening of businesses as we move from Phase One to Phase Two of the BC Restart Plan. If you’re a business looking for direction on reopening, use the guidelines provided by BC’s Go-Forward Management Strategy and Key Steps Checklist.
The Central Okanagan Regional Mayors’ and WFN Chief Economic Recovery Task Force will begin meeting in the coming weeks to inform a long-term economic recovery plan to help reenergize the Central Okanagan economy and emerge stronger.
Watch investkelowna.com/covid19 for centralized business supports and resources, the COEDC Blog for a directory of Buy Local campaigns or for 1:1 assistance to businesses in the Central Okanagan contact the COEDC team at email@example.com.
Lastly I want to express my gratitude and pride of so many in our community. The COEDC team has been inundated with people, organizations and partners throughout the region who are seeking ways to help and contribute to our socioeconomic recovery. The road ahead will have many challenges but there is nowhere else in the world I would rather be and I am confident we will be stronger as we go forward.
Director of Economic Development & Bylaw Services