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Canada loses over a million jobs because of coronavirus

A member of staff hands a first aid kit to a colleague at the coronavirus testing centre which has been set up for the testing of NHS staff at IKEA in Gateshead. (Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The coronavirus cost the Canadian economy 1.01 million jobs in March — easily the worst month on record. In January 2009 129,000 jobs were shed.

“The economic reality of COVID-19 came into sharper focus this morning with absolutely massive job losses seen across Canada in the month of March,” said Royce Mendes, senior economist at CIBC, said in a note.

The new data from Statistics Canada are far worse than the 500,000 expected drop and brings the unemployment rate up to 7.8 per cent from 5.6 per cent.

Full-time jobs fell by 474,000 positions and more jobs were lost in in the private sector (-830,200 or -6.7%) than in the public sector (-144,600 or -3.7%). The largest losses were in accommodation and food services industry

Employment declines were the largest in public-facing positions and jobs that make it difficult to work from home. With a 23.9 per cent decline, accommodation and food services jobs fell the most.


Youth workers were the hardest hit age group. The unemployment rate for Canadians aged 15 to 24 jumped to 49.1 per cent — the highest since record keeping began in 1976.

The total number of Canadians affected by either job losses or reduced hours was 3.1 million.

The steepest jobs losses were in Ontario (-403,000), Quebec (-264,000), British Columbia (-132,000) and Alberta (-117,000).

The new data from Statistics Canada don’t capture the full effect of COVID-19 because the Labour Force Survey measured conditions during the week of March 15 to 21.

“The data since mid-March has only deteriorated: employment insurance and emergency benefit claims have continued to climb, while job postings on Indeed have plunged compared to last year’s trend.” Brendan Bernard, economist at Indeed Canada, told Yahoo Finance Canada.

“Conditions will eventually bottom-out, but a rebound is going to require the confidence of Canadian society that the public health crisis is truly abating.”

Magnitude of this unprecedented employment change compared with past shocks (Statistics Canada)
Magnitude of this unprecedented employment change compared with past shocks (Statistics Canada)

Capital Economics says measures like the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, which helped Air Canada bring back more than 160,000 workers, will cushion the blow but April will be another ugly month.

“We still expect a further drop in employment of at least 1.0 million in April and, with some of the people that have lost their jobs likely to be counted as unemployed by then, we expect the unemployment rate to rise toward 15%,” said Stephen Brown, senior Canada economist at Capital Economics in a note.

Jessy Bains is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow him on Twitter @jessysbains.

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