Kelowna’s economy added almost 3,000 jobs last month as the region’s unemployment rate fell from 5.3% to 4.5%, Statistics Canada reported Friday.

Since February, the number of people working in the Central Okanagan has increased by 8,400. It’s a significant turnaround from January, when the area’s jobless rate was among the highest in Canada at 7.2%.

Currently, 112,1000 people are working in Kelowna, up from 109,500 in April.

Victoria and Abbotsford-Mission have slightly lower unemployment rates than Kelowna, while Vancouver’s is higher at 5.2%.

“As we focus on creating an economy built for everyone, B.C. continues to lead Canada’s economic recovery with the addition of 5,100 new jobs in May,” B.C. Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon said in a government release.

“B.C. saw a shift from part-time to full-time jobs with gains in the private sector,” Kahlon said.

Nationally, the jobless rate fell slightly in May, to 5.1% from 5.2% in April, Statistics Canada reported. It’s the lowest unemployment rate ever in Canada. British Columbia’s overall jobless rate of 4.5% is also the lowest on record.

A total of 40,000 more Canadians were working last month than in April.

Since the beginning of the year, employment in the public sector has risen 2.7%, while it has climbed 2.5% in the private sector.

“The employment increase in May was driven by gains in full-time work among young and core-aged women. The increase was spread across several industries, led by wholesale and retail trade, and concentrated in Alberta,” Statcan reported.

Average hourly wages increased 3.9% on a year-over-year basis, Statcan said.

May’s rise in employment was helped along by the ability of many students being able to find summer jobs, Statcan said. Among students aged 15 to 24, 49.8% were employed in May.

That was 2.8 percentage points higher than in May 2019, before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and well above the level of 39.5% in May 2021, when students seeking to pay for their fall studies continued to face labour market challenges from the pandemic.

Kelowna’s jobs picture through the pandemic has been one of a steep initial decline followed by a relatively quick recovery.

The Central Okanagan had one of Canada’s lowest unemployment rates through the latter half of 2020 and much of 2021, before rising in the last few months of the year and peaking in January 2022.