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N.B. jobless rate at 13.2% as province moves to ease restrictions on business

New Brunswick’s unemployment rate jumped to 13.2 per in April as the economic effects of COVID-19 continue to be felt across the province.

Labour force data was released by Statistics Canada on Friday, just as the province is expected to further loosen restrictions on business imposed because of COVID-19.

This new phase of the New Brunswick recovery plan includes allowing some businesses and restaurants to reopen as long as they adopts physical distancing measures.

The unemployment rate rose 4.4 percentage points from March to April, after the province lost 27,900 full-time jobs and 6,400 part-time jobs in one month. The rate for Canada as a whole climbed to 13 per cent.

Meanwhile, Canada lost almost two million jobs during the month of April, a record high, as the impact of COVID-19 on the economy made itself known.

The labour force survey brings the total number of jobs lost during the crisis to more than three million.

The Happy Baker with empty seats inside its closed location in downtown Fredericton. (Mike Heenan/CBC)

The closure of non-essential services to slow the spread of COVID-19 has devastated the economy and forced businesses to close temporarily.

Statistics Canada says the unemployment rate rose to 13 per cent as the full force of the pandemic hit, compared with 7.8 per cent in March.

Province moves to Phase 2 of recovery plan

Premier Blaine Higgs says he expects to announce Friday that the province is moving to phase two of the plan to ease pandemic restrictions.

The decision to go to the next phase of recovery comes after only two new cases were found in the province in over two weeks.

Of the two active cases of COVID-19 in the province, one is travel-related and the other is still under investigation.

“We had two excellent weeks,” Higgs told Information Morning Fredericton.

“We had a couple of new cases over the last four days, but nothing that wasn’t expected. … We are at that phase two.”

Premier Blaine Higgs says the cases of COVID-19 confirmed this week were expected and won’t affect the move to loosen up restrictions and let businesses reopen. (CBC)

Higgs and Dr. Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health, will address details of the next phase at a news briefing Friday at 2:30 p.m.

Phase two will allow gatherings of 10 people or less, as long as physical distancing is observed.

The two-household bubble would remain.

Higgs said a major change under the looser restrictions is that more elective surgeries and other services will now be provided by procedures will be permitted at hospitals.

Firm puts New Brunswick’s long-term debt rating at A (high)

DBRS Ltd., has confirmed New Brunswick’s issuer rating and long-term debt rating at A (high) and its short-term debt rating at R-1 (middle).

“This reflects New Brunswick’s progress in recent years to restore fiscal balance and reduce debt, leaving the province in a much better position entering the pandemic,” the credit rating agency said in a news release.

New Brunswick’s 2020 budget was passed on March 13. Since then, DBRS has said the province’s fiscal and economic outlook have deteriorated markedly, though the full extent of the deterioration is still uncertain.

“While considerable downside risk remains, New Brunswick’s economy is expected to be less affected than Canada as a whole, reflective of a greater reliance on the public sector, and at the time of writing, the coronavirus pandemic appears to have been less severe in New Brunswick relative to other provinces.”

What to do if you have symptoms

People concerned they might have COVID-19 can take a self-assessment on the government website.  People with two of those symptoms are asked to:

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