Implications for Canada and the economic impact

Updated February 26, 2021

Things are changing quickly, and an evidence-based perspective on coronavirus is essential.

This site is our go-to resource for insights and analysis on COVID-19. Here, we bring you quick-read articles based on our multi-disciplinary research. Each article gives you a fact-based understanding of the complex issues impacting you and your organization.

Check this space often for the latest updates, data, forecasts, research on the growing spread of coronavirus, and useful tools that will help you and your organizations navigate these challenging times.

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Tech Checkup Survey: Strategic Risk and Emergency Management

The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced fundamental changes to how businesses operate. This survey attempts to capture how companies have adapted their risk mitigation and emergency management strategies—and the accompanying shifts in technology. The deadline is March 12, 2021.

Economic impact

Focus area—Canadian Economics

Updated: January 20, 2021

The additional fiscal stimulus is one of several factors that will lead to a gain of 4.2 per cent in real GDP in 2021. Pent-up demand will also spur growth as households begin to spend again on the activities that they put on hold when the pandemic hit. The pent-up demand will be especially important in sectors like travel, restaurant dining, recreational activities, personal care, and health services. Higher-income households are in an enviable position to ramp up their spending quickly, as they increased their savings significantly once spending on travel ground to a halt last summer.

U.S. real GDP growth

(per cent)

2000 02 04 06 08 10 12 14 16 18 20f −4 −3 −2 −1 0 1 2 3 4 5 Forecast

f = forecast
Sources: The Conference Board of Canada; U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Updated: January 12, 2021

We expect to see a global recovery as vaccines are made available across advanced and developing economies, which will help bolster business confidence, investment, and trade, especially as borders reopen over the second half of 2021.

As such, our call is that economic activity will pick up on its own without the need for the additional fiscal stimulus of between $70 billion and $100 billion that the federal government announced in its November 30 fiscal update. Overall, we have revised our forecast for real GDP for 2020 from –6.6 per cent in our autumn edition to –5.3 per cent in our latest outlook. Solid gains are forecast for 2021 and 2022.

Solid (but uncertain) recovery projected for 2021

(Canadian real GDP growth, per cent)

2017 18 19 20f 21f 22f 23f 24f 25f −6 −4 −2 0 2 4 6 Forecast

f = forecast
Sources: The Conference Board of Canada; Statistics Canada.

Updated: December 3, 2020

Potential output increased by 1.7 per cent in 2019, close to the actual growth in the economy. A collapse in investment spending was a key factor in driving down potential growth to a gain of just 1.2 per cent in 2020, and growth in potential output will continue to weaken in 2021 as well. Beyond 2021, growth will slowly recover, with average annual increases of 1.7 per cent through the long term. This is well below the economy’s potential growth prior to the 2008–09 recession and reflects the soft investment levels and weaker growth in the supply of labour and TFP anticipated over the long term

Potential output growth

(per cent)

1990 92 94 96 98 00 02 04 06 08 10 12 14 16 18 20f 22f 24f 26f 28f 30f 32f 34f 36f 38f 40f 0 1 2 3 4 Forecast

f = forecast
Sources: The Conference Board of Canada; Statistics Canada.

Updated: November 25, 2020

The tumultuous economic environment, both in Canada and globally, provides little incentive for new investment. Real business investment will contract by nearly 11 per cent this year, which bodes poorly for any hope of adding to Canada’s productive capacity. Next year, business investment is expected to recover modestly. Investment in structures will be bolstered by a rebound from rock-bottom levels in energy investment. Moreover, the incoming new administration in Washington in January is expected to help settle trade uncertainty and access to the U.S. market, a situation that could help to rekindle investment in Canadian automotive and other manufacturing.

Canadian economy emerging from deep recession

(percentage change*)

2014 15 16 17 18 19 20f 21f 22f −8 −4 0 4 8 Forecast

f = forecast
* based on market prices, 2012 $
Sources: The Conference Board of Canada; Statistics Canada.


Mental health and COVID-19

Join the conversation with Dr. Bill Howatt, Chief of Research, Workplace Productivity.

Focus Area—Human Resources

The contents of these videos is provided for general information only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Ask an economist

Focus Area—Canadian Economics



Bright Future

For us, leader isn’t a title, it’s a way of acting in the world. In this series, hear from leaders who are working to create a bright future.

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Carrying On

The Conference Board of Canada’s Chief of Research, Workplace Productivity, Dr. Bill Howatt, shares strategies to support mental health through COVID-19.

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Leadership Perspectives

In this audio series, we sit down with an expert to hear perspectives on the issues that are affecting the lives of Canadians.

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Working through COVID-19: Series

February 2, 2021

COVID-19 has shed new light on the importance of mental health and wellness. Organizations, and the programs they provide, play a pivotal role in supporting employees’ wellness through these tough times. The Conference Board of Canada asked organizations across the country how they’re managing employee wellness through benefits for the largest group of their full-time workforce.

Focus Area—Human Resources

Organizations holding steady on paramedical service maximums

(n = 161; percentage of organizations)

Q: Has your organization increased its paramedical services benefit maximum in the last 10 months?

2 27 71 Yes No, but considering No, and not currently considering

Source: The Conference Board of Canada.

August 17, 2020

From family obligations to remote work, we’ve surveyed COVID-19’s effects on Canadian employers and workers. But how is the pandemic changing the ebbs, flows, and makeup of the workforce? We asked organizations about how COVID-19 is affecting their turnover, attraction, and retention rates—and the strategies they’ve put in place to manage.

Focus Area—Human Resources

Employees are choosing to stay put

(n = 124; percentage of organizations)

Q: Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the following rates have:

11 44 45 Voluntary turnover rate 17 28 55 Involuntary turnover rate 13 13 75 Retirement rate Increased Decreased Stayed the same

Note: Total may not add to 100 due to rounding.
Source: The Conference Board of Canada.

June 29, 2020

COVID-19 is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. Will employers keep their employees working remotely? And will remote workers be on the hook for home office expenses?

Pre-pandemic, nine in 10 organizations had less than 20 per cent of their workforce working remotely. COVID-19 has flipped this on its head. Now, nearly two thirds of organizations have at least 60 per cent of their workforce working remotely.

Focus Area—Human Resources

Home is where the office is

(n = 273; percentage of organizations)

Q: What percentage of your organization’s workforce works remotely?

0% 1−19% 20−39% 40−59% 60−79% 80−99% 100% 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 61 9 7 18 3 12 28 1 1 18 0 30 0 13 Before COVID−19 Currently

Note: Total may not add to 100 due to rounding.
Source: The Conference Board of Canada.

June 1, 2020

Summer is typically prime vacation time. Will it be this year? With nowhere to go and travel restrictions still in effect, employees may be less motivated to use their vacation in the coming months.

This is a top concern among employers that could lead to paying out large amounts of unused vacation, or more employees taking time off at year-end. Organizations are encouraging—or even requiring—their employees to draw down their accrued vacation. Only a small number of organizations are directing when employees must take this time off.

Focus Area—Human Resources

More encouragement than requirement

(n = 296; percentage of organizations)

Q: As a result of COVID-19, how is your organization directing employees to use vacation before year-end (or other deadline)?

Require—vacation days selected by the employer Require—all vacation Not communicated vacation expectations Require—at least some vacation Encourage—at least some vacation Encourage—all vacation 3 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 10 17 21 32 33

Note: Total does not add to 100 as more than one response could be selected.
Source: The Conference Board of Canada.

May 19, 2020

As provinces move to ease restrictions, Canadian organizations must consider a return of their employees to physical workplaces. With COVID-19 still active, what will this shift look like, and how prepared are employers for the risks? How will this impact working arrangements in the long term?

Throughout the pandemic, many employees have been working remotely. With easing restrictions, employers must consider whether they will be calling these employees back to the workplace. Only 8 per cent of organizations are fully prepared to reopen workplaces. 40 per cent will require employees currently working remotely to return to the workplace in some capacity. This is most common in transportation and warehousing, where 58 per cent of employers have taken this approach.

Focus Area—Human Resources

Few organizations fully prepared to reopen workplaces

(n = 279; percentage of organizations)

Q: When governments lift restrictions related to your location(s) and/or industry, how prepared is your organization to reopen workplaces?

0 10 20 30 40 50 0 Completely 6 48 39 8 Somewhat Somewhat Nearly Fully unprepared unprepared prepared prepared prepared

Note: Total does not add to 100 due to rounding.
Source: The Conference Board of Canada.

May 4, 2020

As COVID-19 distancing measures continue into the year, Canadian organizations are exploring ways to reduce any overhead they can. How is this affecting employee benefits coverage?

68% of organizations have not made—nor are they considering making—any changes to the employee benefits offerings we surveyed. Leading the pack, 46 per cent of utility companies have made or are considering making changes to employee benefits coverage. Retail trade follows at 44 per cent of companies. Almost all organizations in these industries are looking to increase coverage as opposed to reducing it. Across all organizations that have made changes, 46 per cent increased their paid sick leave.

Focus Area—Human Resources

Most organizations staying the course on employee benefits

(n = 333; percentage of organizations)

Q: What changes has your organization made your employee coverage?

68 32 Have not made changes Have made or are considering making changes

Source: The Conference Board of Canada.

April 20, 2020

As COVID-19 distancing—and budgeting—measures continue, many HR leaders are re-evaluating the status of upcoming salary increases and short-term incentive payouts.

The Conference Board of Canada has asked organizations across Canada how they’re managing pay planning for employees at all levels. Here’s what we found.

Focus Area—Human Resources

Few pay cuts so far

(n = 279; percentage of organizations)

Q: Has your organization implemented any of the following actions due to COVID-19?

11% 13% 76% Pay cuts Pay freezes on out-of-cycle increases Yes Considering No 23% 17% 60%

Source: The Conference Board of Canada.

April 9, 2020

As COVID-19 continues to shift the daily rhythms of Canadian households, millions of Canadians are feeling the pinch to balance competing demands of work and family. What are their employers doing to help?

The Conference Board has asked organizations across Canada how they’re accommodating employees with family responsibilities. Here’s what we found.

Focus Area—Human Resources

New realities mean new accommodations

(n = 185; percentage of organizations)

Q: For employees who cannot work their regular working hours due to caregiving needs, what accommodations has your organization provided?

No accommodations Job-sharing Split shifts Compressed work weeks Reduced hours Flex time around core hours Flex time 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 1 11 28 34 55 56 83

Note: Total is greater than 100 as respondents could select more than one option.
Source: The Conference Board of Canada.

April 1, 2020

The Conference Board has asked HR professionals across Canada about the many ways they’re supporting their public-facing workers. Here’s what we found.

Nine out of 10 organizations offering premiums are adding a fixed amount to employees’ pay. On average, employers are providing $4.43 per hour worked.

Focus Area—Human Resources

Few front-line employees rewarded for service so far

(n = 157; percentage of organizations)

Q: Are you providing pay premiums to non-unionized employees still coming into work?

Yes Front-line No 0 10 21% 8% 71% 87% 8% 5% 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 Considering Non-front-line

Note: Totals may not add to 100 due to rounding.
Source: The Conference Board of Canada.

March 25, 2020

The spread of the novel coronavirus disease is changing the nature of work. For many Canadians, it’s also changing how they get paid. As businesses adapt to physical distancing, how are Canada’s workers—especially those who cannot do their jobs remotely—being supported by their organizations?

91% of organizations are navigating our new reality with employees who cannot work remotely.

Focus Area—Human Resources

Locked out of work, but still being paid

(n = 160; percentage of organizations)

Q: How are you compensating employees who cannot access their physical workplace and cannot otherwise perform their work remotely?

Paid leave until workplaces reopen Unpaid leave Regular pay for a period, then paid leave Regular pay for a period, then unpaid leave Paid leave for a period, then unpaid leave Case-by-case Regular pay until workplaces reopen 10 0 5 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 1% 4% 9% 10% 12% 23% 41%

Note: Total is greater than 100 as respondents could select more than one option.
Source: The Conference Board of Canada.

Current insights

Available research

Construction crane

Uneven recovery across Canadian cities: Major City Insights

Online experience February 26, 2021

Focus Area—Canadian Economics

Researcher in PPE holding vaccine vial

Recovery Rests on Vaccine Rollout: Canadian Outlook

Online experience February 24, 2021

Focus Area—Canadian Economics

Travel Markets Outlook

Online experience February 24, 2021

Focus Area—Canadian Economics

Labour Relations Outlook 2021

Online experience February 23, 2021

Focus Area—Human Resources

Frustrated man pinches the bridge of his nose

Tough Times Ahead: Provincial Outlook

Online experience January 18, 2021

Focus Area—Canadian Economics

Woman working on tablet device

Tech Checkup: Mitigating In-Person Risks

Online experience January 11, 2021

Focus Area—Innovation & Technology

Masked woman in front of airport arrivals sign

World Outlook Economic Forecast: Summer 2020

Impact paper August 18, 2020

Focus Area—Canadian Economics

Masked man waiting for subway

Preparing for the Second Wave: Learning from Lockdown

Summary for executives August 13, 2020

Focus Area—Human Resources

Additional resources

As an evidence-based organization, we know how important reliable information is. We have created a list of additional credible sources for COVID-19 updates and information.

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The spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has created uncertainty in all global markets. We’re doing our best to provide timely updates, but information can fall out of date quickly. The Conference Board of Canada reserves the right to adjust content as necessary. Any errors or omissions in fact or interpretation are the responsibility of The Conference Board of Canada.