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Bracing for major job losses

By The Conference Board of Canada   


The Conference Board of Canada’s Chief Economist Pedro Antunes offers insights on Canada’s Labour Market:

Canada will suffer record job losses in March and April—with lower-wage workers taking the brunt of the hit. The situation is causing us to reassess the economic impact of COVID-19 on the national and regional economies.

  • Shutting down most, if not all, non-essential services across Canada will result in massive job losses in the coming weeks, according to the Conference Board of Canada.
  • Our estimates suggest Canada could lose a cumulative 2.8 million jobs in March and April—nearly 15 per cent of total employment.
  • These estimates are supported by the number of employment insurance claims, which have topped 2 million over the last few weeks.
  • The federal emergency wage subsidy will help employment recover and take some of the strain off Employment Insurance and the Canada Emergency Response Benefit for administering direct transfers to laid-off workers. The subsidy covers up to 75 per cent of salaries for businesses distressed by the effects of COVID-19.
  • Assuming that social distancing measures are slowly relaxed, job growth will pick up in May and accelerate over the second half of 2020, but it will take time for Canada’s labour market to fully recover from this pandemic.
  • Industries that average lower wages are over-represented in terms of job losses. Our estimates suggest that nearly 16 per cent of total job losses—roughly 444,000 jobs—will be in the full- and limited-service restaurants industry, where wages averaged $386 weekly (including overtime) in 2019. (See table.)
  • Amusement and recreation, personal care, traveller accommodation, and clothing stores together account for another 527,000 lost jobs—industries in which wages averaged just $508 per week in 2019.
  • Overall, low-wage industries—those whose wages are 50 per cent (or lower) of the national average of $1,029 per week—account for 34 per cent of job losses, despite representing about 14 per cent of national employment last year.



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