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Greater Victoria employs more people now than pre-pandemic – Times Colonist

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Though it’s still a long way from its normal level, Victoria’s unemployment rate fell to 5.4 per cent in June, according to Statistics Canada’s most recent labour force survey.

Victoria trails only Trois-Rivières (4.4 per cent), Quebec City (5.1) and Sherbrooke (5.1) for the lowest rate in Canada.

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The monthly survey, released Friday, showed Victoria followed the trend in B.C., with employment increasing to pre-COVID levels.

Last month, the city employed 212,200, compared with 187,400 at the same time last year, and 194,200 in 2019 before the word pandemic became part of the everyday vernacular.

“It’s definitely positive news. B.C. is leading the country in our economic recovery and we are the only province in the country with more employment now than we had pre-pandemic,” said provincial Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon in an interview.

Provincewide, 2.63 million people were employed last month, compared with 2.57 million in June 2019.

Kahlon credited people following health guidelines along with strong relief measures from both Ottawa and B.C. for the robust numbers.

At the same time, however, the province has more unemployed people now than it did pre-pandemic.

Statistics Canada said B.C. had 194,300 unemployed people in June, up from 121,700 in June 2019, and has an unemployment rate of 6.9 per cent compared with 4.5 per cent at the same time in 2019.

In Victoria, 12,000 people were unemployed last month, up from 8,000 in June 2019. The 5.4 per cent unemployment rate in Victoria compares with 4.0 per cent in June 2019.

Kahlon, who was born and raised in Victoria, said the numbers aren’t unexpected given the city’s dependence on international tourism for a lot of summer employment.

The minister noted the labour force survey was taken a month ago, when the province was still in the second step of its reopening plan. It’s now in Step 3, with far fewer restrictions, including the opening up of cross-Canada travel.

He said as more people start to move around the country, he expects to see the labour market improve further.

“And when we see international tourism come back, it will have a bigger impact in Victoria than in other communities,” he said.

Kahlon agreed the labour shortage, which plagued the province pre-pandemic, has only been put on hold by COVID and is likely to have an impact on the province as it continues its economic recovery.

He said a host of measures will be required to tackle the problem, including increased immigration, improved childcare to free up parents to return to the workforce, improving the skills of existing workers and an increase in minimum wage to make it worthwhile to get off the sidelines and back into work.

Kahlon noted that during the pandemic, there was an increase in people migrating to B.C. from other provinces, which could also ease the pressure on the labour force.

“It means they see opportunity and hope here,” he said.

Nationally, the survey showed the Canadian economy nearly recovered the jobs lost during third-wave lockdowns as restrictions rolled back and businesses expanded their payrolls faster than expected in June.

Statistics Canada said the economy added 230,700 jobs last month after posting losses in April and May, when ­public health restrictions were ­tightened to slow the pandemic.

The national unemployment rate fell to 7.8 per cent for June compared with 8.2 per cent in May, which Statistics Canada said was the lowest of the pandemic since the 7.5 per cent recorded in March.

“We’re at a significant phase of reopening that might be an inflection point for our economy and jobs, where this kind of stop and start of job gains and job losses might not be taking place anymore,” said Trevin Stratton, chief economist at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. “While this initial rebound is very promising, over the longer term there are still some issues that we need to address.”

Hiring in June was concentrated in part-time positions that rose by 263,900, bringing it basically back to pre-pandemic levels and driven by jumps in jobs in the hard-hit retail and food services sectors.

The 101,000 jobs increase in the accommodation and food services sector was the largest jump since last July, with Quebec, Alberta and B.C. accounting for most of the increase. Ontario grew more slowly because of restrictions on indoor dining.

The result for June left the country about 340,000 jobs, or almost two per cent, below pre-pandemic employment levels seen in February 2020. Statistics Canada said the employment gap is likely closer to 540,000 jobs when factoring in population growth.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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Company buying Trump's social media app faces subpoenas – Yahoo Canada Finance

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NEW YORK (AP) — The company planning to buy Donald Trump’s new social media business has disclosed a federal grand jury investigation that it says could impede or even prevent its acquisition of the Truth Social app.

Shares of Digital World Acquisition Corp. dropped almost 10% Monday as the company revealed that it has received subpoenas from a grand jury in New York.

The Justice Department subpoenas follow an ongoing probe by the Securities and Exchange Commission into whether Digital World broke rules by having substantial talks about buying Trump’s company starting early last year before Digital World sold stock to the public for the first time in September, just weeks before its announcement that it would be buying Trump’s company.

Trump’s social media venture launched in February as he seeks a new digital stage to rally his supporters and fight Big Tech limits on speech, a year after he was banned from Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

The Trump Media & Technology Group — which operates the Truth Social app and was in the process of being acquired by Digital World — said in a statement that it will cooperate with “oversight that supports the SEC’s important mission of protecting retail investors.”

The new probe could make it more difficult for Trump to finance his social media company. The company last year got promises from dozens of investors to pump $1 billion into the company, but it can’t get the cash until the Digital World acquisition is completed.

Stock in Digital World rocketed to more than $100 in October after its deal to buy Trump’s company was announced. The stock closed at $25.16 Monday.

Digital World is a special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, part of an investing phenomenon that exploded in popularity over the past two years.

Such “blank-check” companies are empty corporate entities with no operations, only offering investors the promise they will buy a business in the future. As such they are allowed to sell stock to the public quickly without the usual regulatory disclosures and delays, but only if they haven’t already lined up possible acquisition targets.

Digital World said in a regulatory filing Monday that each member of its board of directors has been subpoenaed by the grand jury in the Southern District of New York. Both the grand jury and the SEC are also seeking a number of documents tied to the company and others including a sponsor, ARC Global Investments, and Miami-based venture capital firm Rocket One Capital.

Some of the sought documents involve “due diligence” regarding Trump Media and other potential acquisition targets, as well as communications with Digital World’s underwriter and financial adviser in its initial public offering, according to the SEC disclosure.

Digital World also Monday announced the resignation of one of its board members, Bruce Garelick, a chief strategy officer at Rocket One.

The Associated Press

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Metals haven't crashed this hard since the Great Recession – MINING.COM – MINING.com

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For a metal like copper, its uses in everything from heavy industrial machinery to advanced electronics mean the market is tightly linked to economic shifts, and the retreat marks a signal from commodity markets that efforts to get prices back under control are having some early successes. The mood in metals has soured even as Chinese Covid-19 lockdowns start to ease, and there are signs that traders there are betting copper prices will fall further.

“Even if China recovers in the second half, it won’t be able to single-handedly boost prices back to new highs — that age has gone,” Amelia Xiao Fu, head of commodities strategy at BOCI Global Commodities, said by phone from London. “If other major economies are heading towards a recession, China won’t be growing at exceptional rates either.”

Metals haven’t crashed this hard since the Great Recession

Chinese manufacturing activity is already shrinking, and S&P Global gauges on Thursday showed European manufacturing output contracting for the first time in two years, while US output hit a 23-month low. Even so, the magnitude of the accelerating selloff in copper and other industrial metals suggests that investors are betting on much steeper declines in demand in the coming weeks.

Copper hit a 16-month low of $8,122.50 a ton on the London Metal Exchange on Friday, with an 11% drop so far in June putting it on course for one of the biggest monthly losses of the past 30 years. Metals from aluminum to zinc have also plunged and the Bloomberg Industrial Metals Spot Subindex is down 26% this quarter, headed for the biggest drop since the end of 2008. Tin has more than halved from its March peak.

Metals have been harder hit than other commodities like crops and energy — where supplies and trade have been more forcefully affected by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Bloomberg Energy Spot Subindex is up 10% since the end of March, while a corresponding agriculture index fell 9.7%.

Yet copper and several other metal markets are still facing some of the tightest supply conditions ever. With inventories dwindling globally and little sign of significant new supply, even staunch copper bulls like Goldman Sachs Group Inc. had warned that demand destruction may be necessary to help ease the strain.

The rout in industrial metals started earlier this month after the Federal Reserve hiked interest rates by 75 basis points, and warned that its effort to bring rampant inflation back under control risked sparking a recession. But the selloff accelerated last week even as investors in other markets start to price in an earlier end to the Fed’s rate-hike cycle.

The Federal Reserve has warned that it has little influence over the supply-side drivers that have underpinned the surge in commodities like crude oil, while demand for essential goods like gasoline and food will remain resilient as the pressure on consumers’ finances grows.

But the Fed’s rate hikes could have a much more immediate impact on discretionary spending, potentially bringing an end to boom in metals demand in areas like property, car-making and durable goods. And with manufacturers facing rising borrowing costs, there are also growing risks to demand in areas like construction and industrial machinery, which account for a major portion of overall usage.

Evidence of the bearish shift in sentiment is clearest in the Chinese market, where open interest in Shanghai Futures Exchange copper contracts has risen sharply during a steep decline in prices. That signals that traders are adding new shorts, rather than selling out of bullish positions. On the LME, exchange data suggests the recent slump has been driven more by investors bailing on bets on rising prices, while bearish positioning has been broadly flat for most of the month.

That could reflect hesitation about betting against the market at a time when exchange inventories remain near critically low levels, after a sharp decline in stockpiles helped drive a historic surge in spot copper prices late last year. Nickel bears got caught out in an even bigger short squeeze in March, while a new supply crisis is brewing in the zinc market after readily available LME inventories sunk to a record low last week.

For now, the recessionary risks around copper are driving away generalist investors, said BOCI’s Fu.

“Some of the so-called tourists have decided they want to get out for the time being, and from a trading perspective that makes sense — but fundamentally these markets are still very tight.”

(By Mark Burton, with assistance from Jack Farchy)

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This London, Ont., tech firm is making e-bikes an easy alternative to cars for its workers – CBC.ca

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With rising fuel prices, heavy impacts on the environment and climate change, a London-based tech firm has found a crafty solution in the form of e-bikes for its employees.

About 50 workers at Northern Commerce based in Ontario were gifted e-bikes worth just over $3,500 each on Sunday. Joy Hagerty, who’s been a part of the team for about 10 years, was one of them. 

“I’m excited to take a turn on the tern,” she said. “It’s really good for the city so we’re happy to spread this around. Any smaller thing you can do is going to help make an impact, so this allowed us to really get the word out.”

She plans to slowly phase into using her bike as often as possible, and hopes to it can serve as a replacement to her car when it comes to getting around the city.

The company’s senior vice president Andrew McClenaghan developed a love for e-bikes during the pandemic when he used them for exercise and running errands, and hasn’t looked back since. 

“I was amazed at what a game changer — having a little bit of extra power when you’re pedalling — made for me and my lifestyle, and I started using it in my day to day,” he said. 

Northern Commerce’s long-time employee, Joy Hagerty, plans to make her new e-bike a part of her daily routine. (Isha Bhargava/CBC)

While the functions of the e-bike are similar to a traditional one when it comes to the pedals, its settings can be adjusted to add more power when riding uphill or carrying groceries. 

“We’re running out of room for cars, we can’t widen the roads anymore and even if we do they just fill up with cars so it’s a never ending problem. This can actually solve for it,” McClenaghan said 

McClenaghan decided to gift the e-bikes to his team as a way to share his new-found passion with them, and also as a ‘thank you’ gesture for the staffers who stuck around in 2020 when the company merged with his former business, Digital Echidna. 

E-bikes combating climate change

Brad Lickman drives a truck, and he says his new e-bike gives him the chance to reduce his impact on the environment.

“I think seeing more of these on the road will raise awareness that they exist,” he said. “Climate change is a very serious issue and we need to do everything we can to minimize our own impact on the environment.

Lickman also says he hopes e-bikes can also draw more action around improving bike lanes throughout the city.

Brad Lickman says he will use his new e-bike to limit the impact his truck has on the environment. (Isha Bhargava/CBC)

McClenaghan says he believes the e-bikes can be a game changer in helping to combat climate change. He says the bikes serve as a multi-functional tool and a second-car replacement. 

“It can really replace all those short car trips. Most car trips are within eight to 10 minutes and this e-bike, with the cargo capability it has, can help people change their habits,” he said. 

The cargo bikes, manufactured by U.S. based company Tern, have a heavier frame which enables them to carry more weight, plus spaces to add more attachments, McClenaghan said

“I’ve seen that the more bikes that are out there, the more people are asking questions about them,” he said. “Once you try them, people instantly fall in love with them and see the possibilities that come out of them.” 

A snowball effect

The e-bikes also come in cargo mode which allows for more space and carrying heavier items. (Isha Bhargava/CBC)

Matt Thompson and his family were thrilled to ride an e-bike for the first time ever. He says he believes the bikes can add some convenience to commuters challenged by construction in the city. 

“It comes at a great time,” he said. “I can’t go anywhere in this city without running into construction. I think the more people who are focused on not being on the roads is a great thing.”

Northern Commerce is also working on building cages for the bikes in their parking lot to ensure a safe storage space. 

“Our philosophy is that the more bikes that are out on the streets, it’s going to have a snowball effect and we’ll see more and more of these in our city,” McClenaghan said. 

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