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Quick Take

Bracing for major job losses

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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.
  • 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.

20 sectors forecast to be most affected by job losses

  Job losses Average weekly wage
Full- and limited-service eating places 444,338 381.01
Other amusement & recreation industries 160,050 476.12
Personal care services 137,100 524.60
Traveller accommodation 129,120 593.09
Clothing stores 100,970 449.47
Residental building construction 73,160 1,080.42
Automobile dealers 70,920 1,132.10
Motion picture & video industries 60,000 1,017.92
Independent artists, writers, & performers 60,000 1,067.69
Depository credit intermediation 57,375 1,228.97
Services to buildings & dwellings 57,300 676.57
Other schools & instruction 55,200 499.01
Health & personal care stores 41,300 659.07
Motor vehicle parts manufacturing 40,200 1,073.57
Scheduled air transportation 40,000 1,216.84
Building equipment contractors 35,830 1,301.85
Building material & supplies dealers 33,633 729.06
Other miscellaneous store retailers 33,510 562.33
Performing arts companies 33,320 731.79
Taxi & limousine service 33,250 595.36

Sources: The Conference Board of Canada; Statistics Canada, Table 14-10-0204-01.

COVID-19: Get all the insights

Pedro Antunes

Pedro Antunes

Chief Economist

Pedro Antunes

Cory Renner

Economist, Industrial Economic Trends

Pedro Antunes

Richard Forbes


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Insights—Global Trade

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