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Although now isn't the time for a victory lap, with clusters of COVID-19 cases popping up in the province, Premier Brian Pallister gave Manitoba a tentative pat on the back for having the lowest unemployment rate in the country in July.
"Our economic numbers released by StatsCan this morning show that we continue to be one of the leading provinces in Canada in terms of creating job opportunities, giving people their lives back across the province, and in suppressing the incidence of COVID among our citizens," he told a Friday news conference.
"The numbers released today show over 60 per cent of Manitobans who lost their jobs to COVID are now back to work," he said. "Our unemployment has edged down to 8.2 per cent, which is the lowest in Canada."
The national unemployment rate is 10.9 per cent.
There was an increase of 12,400 Manitobans employed from June to July — two per cent — as Manitoba's economy continued to reopen with Phase 4 of its recovery plan kicking in July 23.
Full-time employment was up 6,200 — a 1.3 per cent increase, which is double the national average, Pallister said. Part-time employment increased five per cent.
There are still 34,265 Manitobans out of work due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Visible-minority Manitobans, who are not white nor Indigenous, appear to be twice as likely to be unemployed, according to the survey taken last month. That is a larger discrepancy than the national snapshot.
The province is extending its Gap Protection Program deadline from the end of this month to Oct. 31, the premier said. Businesses ineligible for federal support can apply for an immediate $6,000 under the program that has provided $51 million to 8,500 Manitoba businesses so far to help restart operations.
However, Manitoba's economic recovery could be wiped out if people aren't mindful COVID-19 isn't going away any time soon, Pallister warned.
"The progress we've made to date has been because we've been following the fundamentals, and that is what we must continue to do," he said.
The province is next week launching a public-awareness campaign to remind Manitobans to wash their hands, avoid touching their face, stay home when they're ill, and make sure they practise social distancing. Pallister said health security is necessary for economic recovery.
"There's a real danger that we'll let our guard down," the premier said, noting recent clusters of COVID-19 infections reported in Brandon and the Southern Health region. "It's obvious that guard has been let down."
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.
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