Lethbridge unemployment rate jumped to 9% in May

Lethbridge normally tends to weather economic challenges thanks to the prevalent agriculture industry that doesn’t fluctuate as much as other sectors like oil and gas, but it’s not immune to COVID-19.

The local region saw a spike of 2.2 per cent in the latest unemployment rates, leaving Lethbridge-Medicine Hat at nine per cent.

“The good news, if there is any, is that we are of course the lowest unemployment in the province,” said Trevor Lewington with Economic Development Lethbridge.

There are some local sectors feeling the effects a bit more than others.

Educational services in the Lethbridge-Medicine Hat region incurred losses of another 1,100 positions in May. Agriculture saw losses of 1,200, accommodation and food services is down 1,500 from April and retail trade lost 1,600.

Lewington added another area that took a hit was manufacturing, which shed 1,200 positions.

“Manufacturing jobs tend to pay more, they tend to be full time, so when we see a downturn in manufacturing jobs that’s a concern because of the cascade affect of that spend throughout the rest of the supply chain.”

Local employment remained strong in the health care and social assistance areas, finance, insurance and real estate.

Transportation and warehousing and professional, scientific and technical services all saw an uptick in May.

Lewington added it will be a few months down the road before we can really gauge how the local economy is doing.

“October, for me, is going to be a real key month for a look at what happens because that’s when a lot of the deferred debts will come due, and if people still aren’t able to pay them, that’s when we will really start to see impacts.”

Lewington said the reference week used to gather the May data was right before the economy began to reopen and he expects the numbers will improve for June.

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